Former pet insurance company employee who fled to the US sentenced
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A man from London has been sentenced for stealing £67,499.88 from his employer through bogus insurance claims and then fleeing to the United States in order to avoid prosecution.
Rasheed Talabi, 34, of Hombury Grove, Croydon, London, abused his position as a Claims Assessor at a widely-used insurer in order to create fictitious customers and submit fraudulent claims for pet insurance on these policies. Talabi was arrested by the City of London Police’s Insurance Fraud Enforcement Department (IFED), after his employer noticed issues with the claims he was handling. Whilst on release under investigation, Talabi fled to the US ahead of his impending court date.
Through collaborative efforts with US law enforcement and immigration, IFED officers were able to track Talabi down and he was subsequently arrested. He was then extradited to the UK and arrested upon his arrival at Heathrow Airport in April 2021.
Talabi pleaded guilty to Fraud by Abuse of Position in May 2021 and was sentenced to two years imprisonment, suspended for two years and 175 hours of unpaid work at the Central Criminal Court on Tuesday 10 August 2021.
Police Staff Investigator Abdelkader Rezkallah, from the City of London Police’s Insurance Fraud Enforcement Department (IFED), said:
“Today’s outcome is proof that you cannot outrun the law. Talabi clearly thought that he could flee halfway across the world and avoid prosecution. However, he failed to consider the determination of IFED in the fight against insurance fraud, as well as the relationships between international law enforcement agencies.
“We are extremely grateful for the hard work of the New York District Attorney Office and US Homeland Security in returning Talabi to the UK so that he could be rightfully punished.
“Talabi has deceived his employer and his friends, as well as stealing the identities of unknowing members of the public. Even after admitting to his offences, Talabi did not accept responsibility for his actions by facing justice cooperatively, and the chaos he caused has been reflected in his punishment.”
In his role as a Claims Assessor for Allianz Insurance, Talabi was responsible for processing and finalising insurance claims made by customers for illness or death of a pet, a role in which he worked for over two years.
Talabi used his knowledge of the insurer’s processes and systems to avoid and undermine audit controls. However, as part of a standard audit process, Allianz’s claims validation team ran checks and noticed a pattern of claims that had vet fee claims followed by a death claim for the same breed of dog. All of these claims were handled by Talabi and the amount the dog was insured for was identical across all of the policies.
Fraudulent internet applications submitted by Talabi
The review into Talabi’s work revealed that he had created eleven fraudulent insurance policies, with forty-one claims in total across these policies.
Following a referral from the insurer, IFED officers arrested and interviewed the suspect. Talabi admitted to the offences in full, disclosing that he had set up email addresses in false names to take out the policies with his employer. He had also convinced friends to let him direct the payments into their bank accounts, claiming that he was having issues with his bank and so needed to divert his salary elsewhere.
Upon searching the suspect’s home, officers discovered uncashed cheques in the names of the fabricated customers, as well as letters addressed to these from the insurer. Whilst the names and email addresses of the policyholders were fake, further enquiries found that Talabi had stolen genuine addresses to substantiate the claims.
Talabi failed to appear at court and was declared as wanted on the national police database. Suspecting that he had fled to the US, the unit worked with the New York District Attorney Office and US Homeland Security to ascertain Talabi’s location.
It soon came to light that Talabi had not disclosed his legal issues upon entering the US. Talabi repeatedly lied to immigration services whilst attempting to secure permanent resident status, which resulted in his application being denied. The fugitive fled once more from Newark, New Jersey to Houston, Texas, where he was eventually arrested.
Talabi was deported back to the UK, where he was greeted at the airport by IFED officers and a warrant for his arrest.
Dave Gill, Head of Operations at Allianz Insurance, said:
“Allianz operates a policy of zero tolerance to fraud and we were shocked and appalled when we uncovered his actions which go against our values and policies. We’re very grateful to all the parties that have been involved in bringing this ex-employee to justice. This sends a strong message that insider fraud is fought with the same determination as insurance fraud.”
Manhattan District Attorney, Cy Vance, Jr, said:
“We applaud the City of London Police and its Insurance Fraud Enforcement Department for their dogged pursuit of accountability on behalf of the victims of this fraud. This resolution is the latest success in our transatlantic partnership with CoLP to bring perpetrators of white-collar crime affecting our cities to justice. I thank the U.S. Department of Homeland Security for their strong collaboration with our agencies in this endeavour.”
Homeland Security Investigations Attaché, Eric Feldman, said:
“By working closely with the City of London Police, we were able to locate and apprehend this individual in the United States for his crimes in the UK. Our strong partnership ensures that perpetrators in either country will be accountable for their crimes and will not avoid prosecution by fleeing.”