In Poor Taste: Man ate evidence to avoid prosecution for fake travel insurance claims
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A man from London has been sentenced for two fraudulent travel insurance claims amounting to £22,122.
Cormac McCollum, 26, of Great Eastern Road, Stratford, London, was sentenced at Inner London Crown Court on Monday 24 May 2021 to twelve months imprisonment suspended for eighteen months, 180 hours of unpaid work and ordered to pay £8,000 within 90 days, after imitating both his partner and his father in order to make claims for alleged medical treatments whilst abroad. The insurer, Direct Line, doubted the legitimacy of the initial claim, and so referred the case to the City of London Police’s Insurance Fraud Enforcement Department (IFED). Investigations uncovered that McCollum had forged documents to substantiate his claim. Officers also linked him to a second fraudulent claim associated with his parents’ policy.
Detective Constable Stuart Osborne, from the City of London Police Insurance Fraud Enforcement Department (IFED), said:
“McCollum’s guilt was evident from the moment IFED officers stepped into his home and he attempted to destroy incriminating evidence by eating it. Unfortunately for him, our officers were still able to seize implicating evidence showing he was planning to execute another similar plot in the next few days.
“This is the second sentencing for an IFED investigation relating to travel insurance fraud in just over a month. These results reinforce the fact that this crime is taken seriously by both IFED and the industry, and should act as a stark warning for anyone considering committing this type of fraud.”
Direct Line records show that a travel insurance policy was purchased under the name of McCollum’s partner in November 2017, the day before the policyholder was supposedly due to travel to the United States for a one-week trip. McCollum, pretending to be his partner, called Direct Line to report that he had undergone surgery for an ear injury whilst abroad. He claimed that he had settled the £13,244 in costs for the surgery and treatment upfront and was now looking to recover the money through his policy.
The insurer asked for documentation to prove the claim. McCollum provided an e-ticket receipt from a major airline, an invoice from a hospital in Florida, a medical certificate signed by a UK doctor, and a bank statement showing the payment for the medical costs. Checks with the hospital in Florida revealed that they had no record of the claimant receiving treatment, whilst both the e-ticket flight receipt and bank statement were proven to be fake.
A review of the phone calls to the insurer detected a Northern Irish accent, indicating that it was McCollum - who grew up in this region - making the calls, as opposed to his partner who has an English accent.
IFED officers executed a search warrant on the home of McCollum and his partner. During the search, McCollum attempted to destroy evidence by tearing up documents and trying to eat them, before being restrained by officers. Alongside evidence indicating his involvement in the claim under his partner’s name, the team also found a medical form for McCollum’s mother.
Direct Line confirmed that a payment of £8,877 had been made for a claim under a policy associated with McCollum’s parents. Further enquiries unearthed striking similarities to the initial claim under investigation. McCollum, alleging to be his father, had contacted Direct Line to report that his wife had undergone gall bladder surgery whilst in Florida and that they had paid for the treatment upfront. The documents supplied to support the claims were once again found to have been forged.
Despite remaining silent throughout the first interview, McCollum admitted to the offences in full during a second interview and confirmed that neither his family nor his partner had been involved.
Mike Brown, Head of Counter Fraud Intelligence, Direct Line, commented:
"At Direct Line, we detect and deter as much fraud as possible, using a collaborative approach including sophisticated data analysis, the use of intelligence and investigations by our highly skilled investigators, across our whole business. We work with all law enforcement agencies to assist them in preparing cases for criminal prosecution and this case was a prime example of how our relationship with IFED led to a conviction.
“Successful prosecutions like this one, protects the wider public and enables us to protect the premiums of our innocent customers. We are delighted that the perpetrator of this fraud has been brought to justice. This sentence should serve as a stark warning to others that Insurance Fraud is not a victimless crime and harsh sentences will be sought in support of our zero-tolerance approach.”