Handyman’s attempts to lead insurers up the garden path caught out
Main article content
A man was sentenced to a year’s imprisonment for fraudulent insurance claims, which could have inflicted a potential loss of £107,594 on some of the UK’s biggest insurers.
Richard Charles, a gardener/handyman of Vicarage Drive, Beckenham, Bromley, received a custodial sentencing at Woolwich Crown Court on 17 December 2020 for seven counts of fraud by false representation, after alleging that he was not able to work due to bogus knee and elbow injuries, as well as making false claims for stolen tools.
This sentencing brings the number of custodial sentences achieved by the City of London Police’s Insurance Fraud Enforcement Department (IFED) to a milestone 300 years since its creation in 2012.
Detective Chief Inspector Edelle Michaels, from the City of London Police’s Insurance Fraud Enforcement Department (IFED), said:
“This sentencing marks a significant milestone for IFED. Whilst Covid has delayed a number of court cases over the course of this year, the IFED team has worked hard and adapted to this new climate, bringing a number of fraudsters to justice despite the difficult circumstances. The result is true testament to the department’s resilience and determination in the fight against insurance fraud.”
Detective Sergeant Matthew Hussey, from the City of London Police’s Insurance Fraud Enforcement Department (IFED), said:
“Charles was systematic in his attempt to fraudulently claim insurance pay-outs from five insurers over a period of almost two years. By faking injuries and lying about the theft of his tools, he was able to take home more than £72k in unearned cash, with a further £35k of claims attempted but thankfully not paid out. Charles’ sentencing reflects the enormity of his deception, and the amount of work that has gone into bringing him to justice.”
“Many people wrongly assume insurance fraud is a victimless crime. What they don’t consider is the fact that incidences of insurance fraud, such as this one, can push up premiums for other, innocent customers.”
In January 2016, three months after Charles had taken out a Personal Accident & Sickness Policy with Aviva, the insurer received notification that their client had slipped on decking whilst at work, falling onto his left elbow. Over the next twelve months, Charles maintained claims that the injury to his elbow had left him unable to work, resulting in his insurer paying out a total of £26,000.
A year after the first claim, Aviva received a second claim notification reporting that Charles had tripped on a small set of steps in his home and injured his left knee as a result of the fall. The claimant once again alleged that the ‘accident’ had left him unable to work.
This second claim raised concerns for Aviva, who arranged for Charles to be medically examined. An MRI scan concluded that Charles had not sustained the severe knee injury that he had claimed, which led the insurer to refer the case to IFED.
Investigations into Charles quickly flagged a number of inconsistencies in his claims, including a social media profile associated with Charles which featured images of the claimant performing a number of physically-taxing activities, such as weight lifting and jet skiing. Posts to this account also indicated that Charles had still been working during the claims period.
It was also discovered that Charles had received £41,600 from another Personal Accident & Sickness Policy with a separate insurer, taken out two months before the policy with Aviva was taken out. Charles had made an almost identical claim just a month before, alleging to have fallen after slipping on a wet surface, injuring his left elbow. The claimant even provided the same London street for the address at which he was working when the incident occurred. The residents of these addresses later confirmed that they had not hired Charles to complete any work, nor did their garden have the decking surface which Charles claims to have slipped on.
Charles also claimed on four separate occasions that his van had been broken into and tools had been stolen, receiving £4,739 in compensation, and attempting to defraud his insurers of another £9,255. In an attempt to substantiate his claims, Charles provided fraudulent receipts as proof of purchase and photographs showing ‘damage’ to his van; a subsequent data check proved that these images were in fact captured three months before the first incident was alleged to have taken place. These claims date between May 2016 and August 2017, during the claims period in which Charles reported that he was unable to work due to his injuries.
Carl Mather, Special Investigations Unit Manager at Aviva, said:
“This case shows how closely insurers work with each other and with the police to fight fraud. Aviva is committed to continually improving its fraud detection capabilities and where we find fraud, we will work closely with the police to prosecute. Aviva detected Mr Charles’ fraud, and also identified that he had made a number of claims with other insurers. Aviva alerted industry partners and we shared information which has now resulted in his prosecution for seven offences of fraud valued at more than £100,000. Mr Charles must now face the reality of a criminal conviction; the custodial sentence will limit his future employment opportunities and application for insurance, loans and other essential services.”