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Manchester pair who made up car crash then got family to make sham insurance claims are jailed

A man and woman from Manchester who made up a car crash and then encouraged family and friends to falsely claim they were involved in the‘ collision’ in a effort to get tens of thousands of pounds in insurance payments have been jailed
for a total of three years.

Dale Bowers and Michelle Culff were sentenced alongside six accomplices who fraudulently claimed they were involved in the‘ smash’ in a bid to get payouts from Saga.Three of the six, including Culff’ s 62 - year - old mother Eileen, were also jailed and the other three given suspended prison terms.

This followed an investigation by the City of London Police’ s Insurance Fraud Enforcement Department(IFED).

Eileen Culff reported to Saga that she was travelling in her Nissan Micra when she crashed into the back of a BMW on Leigh Road in Wigan in October 2012. Her friends Elsie Leatherbarrow and Michelle Beavan, as well as Michelle Culff’ s partner Paul Bailey, said they were also riding in the car when the‘ incident’ happened.

The‘ driver’ of the BMW, Dale Bowers, his partner Athena Harris and her brother Martin Harris, also told Saga that they were in the BMW when it was‘ hit’ by Culff’ s Micra.

The‘ occupants’ of both cars, bar Eileen, later submitted claims
for whiplash worth between£ 4, 300 and£ 7, 435, which were supported by medical records.

Bowers also claimed for car repairs, vehicle recovery fees and courtesy car replacement costs, bringing his total claim value to almost£ 90, 000. He received a£ 4, 500 payout and a prestige courtesy car while his BMW was allegedly off the road.

But the con started to unravel when Saga found inconsistencies in Eileen Culff’ s account of the‘ accident’.Proof of the conspiracy came when an examination of the Nissan revealed that the cars had not been in a collision with each other in the way described to the insurer.

When challenged by Saga, Eileen Culff admitted there was no accident and said her daughter Michelle Culff had set it all up.

The insurer made a referral to IFED in August 2013 and detectives arrested the Culffs, Bowers and Athena Harris at their respective homes three months later.Leatherbarrow, Beavan, Bailey and Martin Harris attended a police station
for interview.

During interview Michelle Culff stated that a third party had designed the accident scenario and given her Bowers’ details.She claimed the third party paid her£ 800 to set up the con, money she gave to her mother.

She said she believed she was helping her mother and her friends get extra money in the run up to Christmas.

Leatherbarrow, Beavan and Bailey later told detectives that Michelle Culff had taken them en masse to a doctor to get medical reports to support their claims.

The eight were subsequently charged with conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation.

Yesterday afternoon(30 th July) at Liverpool Crown Court, the following sentences were given:

  • Michelle Culff, 34, of Hillcrest Avenue in Leigh in Manchester, was sentenced to 16 months in prison.
  • Eileen Culff, 62, of Hillcrest Avenue in Leigh in Manchester, was sentenced to eight months in prison.
  • Elsie Leatherbarrow, 52, of Wigan Road in Leigh in Manchester, was handed a four month jail term suspended for 12 months.
  • Michelle Beavan, 32, of Douglas Road in Leigh in Manchester was sentenced to six months in prison.
  • Paul Bailey, 40, of Hillcrest Avenue in Leigh in Manchester, was sentenced to six months in prison.
  • Dale Bowers, 27, of Lilford Street, in Leigh in Manchester was sentenced to two years in prison.

Athena Harris, 26, of Russeldene Road in Highfield in Wigan, was handed a six month jail term suspended for 12 months. She was also given a six month supervision requirement.

Martin Harris, 19, of Russeldene Road in Highfield in Wigan, was handed a two month jail term suspended for 12 months and ordered to undertake 150 hours unpaid work.

City of London Police Detective Constable Paula Doyle, who led the Insurance Fraud Enforcement Department’ s investigation, said: “Dale Bowers and Michelle Culff made up a car crash in a bid to make money for themselves and their loved ones.

“But their actions, and their family and friends’ willingness to get involved in the scam, has led to them all being labelled as criminals and landed most of them behind bars.

“Today’ s sentencing should also send out a serious message to anyone thinking of telling lies to insurers to make money they are not entitled to– insurance fraud is a crime and you will feel the full force of the law.”

Saga Director, Paul Green, commented: “Saga 's honest customers should not have to pay for the crimes committed by insurance fraudsters. That is why we have robust, sophisticated and uncompromising ways to detect fraudulent acts and will look to punish these criminals wherever possible.

“ Crime should not pay and by working with the Insurance Fraud Enforcement Department and other organisations we make sure it does not.We are delighted that those involved in this case will rue the day they followed a criminal path and that our customers will not have to foot the bill for their criminality.”

IFED has applied to the court under the Proceeds of Crime Act to recover the money fraudulently gained in this scam.