Money for old rope: Man sentenced after buying broken down cars to use in insurance claims
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A man from London has been sentenced for making bogus car insurance claims for collisions and theft in a bid to fraudulently gain around £25,000.
Michael Smith, 47 (24/04/1975), of Goring Road, Southgate, reported to his insurer that his vehicle had been involved in a road traffic collision. Shortly afterwards, Smith informed another insurance company, Aviva, that the same car had been stolen from outside of his home. Checks run by the two companies uncovered the two claims for the same vehicle, leading them to refer the case to the City of London Police’s Insurance Fraud Enforcement Department (IFED). The unit’s investigation then revealed yet another false claim involving a separate vehicle.
Smith was sentenced on Wednesday 17 August 2022 at Central Criminal Court to two years imprisonment suspended for 18 months and 120 hours of unpaid work. He was also ordered to pay £6,318.78 in compensation and costs.
He previously pleaded guilty to three counts of fraud by false representation on Wednesday 1 June 2022 at Westminster Magistrates Court.
Detective Constable Justin Hawes, from the City of London Police’s Insurance Fraud Enforcement Department, said:
“It seems that Smith thought he was on to a winner by buying damaged vehicles from salvage car dealers and using them to claim for damage and theft on his insurance. He even went so far as to change his name to enable his fraudulent plot.
“Thanks to the stringent checks made by the insurers and their collaborative work with us, we were able to stop Smith from defrauding the companies out of around £25,000.”
Smith took out a three-day car insurance policy for a Toyota Rav-4 in the name of Michael Gold on 29 September 2019. On the final day of the policy, Smith called the insurer to report that he had been involved in a road traffic collision earlier that day in the Chelmsford area. He claimed that his vehicle had skidded in the rain and hit a tree, causing significant damage to the front of the car. Smith also alleged that he had a nosebleed and headache as a result of the collision.
The car was picked up by a vehicle recovery company on the same day and taken into storage.
Smith amended a separate existing policy he held with Aviva to cover the same Toyota Rav-4 on 22 October 2019. Two days after amending the policy, Smith called Aviva to report that the car had been stolen overnight from outside his home address. During this call he confirmed that he had purchased the vehicle on the day that he amended his policy.
After running checks with a number of companies, Aviva was notified by a car auction company that they were already storing a Toyota Rav-4 with the same number plate in relation to a claim with another insurer. Aviva attended the storage site where the car had been held for three months and confirmed that the car was the same vehicle, therefore could not have been stolen from Smith’s home.
In the meantime, Smith provided Aviva with a copy of the receipt, showing that he had purchased the vehicle from a lettings company on 22 October 2019.
The claims were referred by both insurers to IFED for investigation. The unit executed a warrant at Smith’s home, where they discovered evidence showing the vehicle in the names of both Michael Smith and Michael Gold.
The vehicle recovery company informed IFED that the Toyota Rav-4 had rust, damage and cobwebs when they collected it, suggesting that the car had been damaged for some time and had not been recently involved in a collision. The staff member who collected the vehicle also reported that the car battery was dead.
IFED officers traced the ownership of the car, which revealed that it had been purchased from a salvage car dealer on 29 September 2019 in a damaged state.
Contact was also made with the lettings company which Smith had supposedly purchased the vehicle from on 22 October 2019, according to his correspondence with Aviva. The company confirmed that they had never sold cars and the headed receipt was fake.
This information prompted Aviva to make another referral to IFED for an earlier claim.
On 20 August 2019, Smith amended his Aviva policy to cover a Mercedes-Benz. He contacted Aviva the next day to report that he had been involved in a road traffic collision whilst driving to a MOT test in Borehamwood. A vehicle in front of him had indicated to turn but continued driving straight ahead, which caused Smith to swerve and collide with a large stone in the process. There was substantial damage to the vehicle and the airbags had been deployed.
Smith provided Aviva with proof of purchase for the Mercedes-Benz from the same lettings company he would later claim to have bought the Toyota Rav-4 from.
Officers looked into the history of the Mercedes-Benz and found that the car had been damaged in a collision in May 2019, with dashcam footage to prove this. The vehicle was subsequently passed onto a salvage car dealer and purchased by Smith in a damaged state on 16 August 2019.
Checks with the DVLA also revealed that the name on Smith’s driving record had been changed five times.
During interview, Smith remained silent to all questions asked.
Carl Mather, Special Investigations Unit Manager at Aviva, said:
“Although Michael Smith was determined in his repeated attempts to submit bogus motor claims, Aviva has the capability and resources to effectively detect and fully investigate the fraud he committed. In this case, prompt collaboration and information sharing with external partners, coupled with some good old-fashioned leg work, quickly unravelled Mr Smith’s attempts to deceive his insurer.
“Today’s sentencing should act as a deterrent to others who may consider insurance fraud to be a victimless crime and a chance worth taking. Both of those assumptions are incorrect, and Aviva remains resolute in its commitment to mitigating the impact of fraud on insurance premiums and bringing fraudsters to justice. We continue to invest and work closely with other insurers, industry partners and the police to strengthen Aviva’s fraud response, initiate criminal prosecutions and protect the interests of genuine customers.”