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A man from London has been sentenced for setting up hundreds of fraudulent insurance policies on behalf of other people by using false details and compromised bank accounts.
Rodney Bruce Van der Puye, 34, of Cator Street, Southwark, pocketed around £50,000 in just over 15 months by acting as an illegal intermediary, also known as a ‘ghost broker’. Van der Puye targeted some of the UK’s biggest insurance companies, using his, his mother’s and unknowing members of the public’s identities to take out cheaper motor insurance policies for his ‘customers’.
The ‘ghost broker’s’ illicit business was soon spotted by the Insurance Fraud Bureau (IFB), who linked 28 suspicious policies to one individual. The case was then referred to the City of London Police’s Insurance Fraud Enforcement Department (IFED) for further investigation, uncovering yet more policies that were connected to Van der Puye.
Van der Puye was sentenced to 21 months imprisonment suspended for two years and ordered to complete 180 hours of unpaid work on Thursday 6 July 2022 at Inner London Crown Court. He previously changed his pleas from not guilty to guilty for fraud by false representation, money laundering and providing a regulated claims management service whilst unauthorised.
Detective Sergeant Adam Maskell, who led the investigation for IFED, said:
“When this case was referred to IFED from the IFB, we knew we had a seasoned ‘ghost broker’ on our hands. However, it was only when we seized evidence from Van der Puye that we realised the extent of his offending.
“The mobile phones we seized turned out to be a goldmine of overwhelming evidence, which Van der Puye could not dispute. In spite of this, the ‘ghost broker’ still tried to shift the blame during interview and even entered an initial plea of not guilty.
“We often see cases where the policyholder is unaware that they are dealing with a ‘ghost broker’, but this was clearly not the case. Van der Puye had a reputation for his illegal services and had accrued a number of customers along the way, many of whom seemed to be aware of his fraudulent methods. Van der Puye has faced justice, but I also hope his customers take stock of their actions and refrain from purchasing insurance through a ‘ghost broker’ again.”
IFED’s initial investigation looked into the policies detected by the IFB, which were set up between 2016 and 2017. These policies were taken out in either Van der Puye’s name or that of his mother, but many used addresses, email addresses and bank accounts linked to other people.
26 of these policies were taken out to insure just four vehicles over two years. The policies were persistently cancelled by the insurers after the payments were declined due to the bank account holders’ details not matching the policyholders.
IFED officers executed a search warrant at the home of Van der Puye’s mother, where he was living at the time. Van der Puye arrived at the property in a black BMW, which was one of the vehicles he had insured through a fraudulent policy.
Three phones were seized by officers from the property and the vehicle, with Van der Puye claiming that just one belonged to him. Forensic investigators gained access to one of the phones after Van der Puye refused to hand over its PIN details. More than 50 WhatsApp conversations and text messages related to further fraudulent policies were discovered on one phone. This evidence also identified 113 bogus policies set up by Van der Puye between May and July 2018 alone.
The evidence from this device indicated that Van der Puye’s ‘customers’ were aware of the policies being fraudulent. Van der Puye was also addressed by name in these conversations, with messages including “Hi Rodney, I need you to do me some insurance” and “Hi Rodney I need insurance today”.
Van der Puye’s responses showed that he charged around £80 to £150 for his services. The details of two bank accounts were provided by Van der Puye for these payments, including one in the name of his former partner.
Analysis of this bank account revealed that £50,000 worth of transactions were made between May 2017 and August 2018, all of which related to insurance policies. From this total sum, £27,000 was transferred to an account in Van der Puye’s name, over £6,500 to his mother’s account and another £3,800 made in rent payments.
During an interview with IFED officers, the holder of this account alleged that she was not aware of the deposits as this was not her main bank account.
The company which handled Van der Puye’s rent payments stated that these were often made from various bank accounts and cards, and were subject to ‘chargebacks’ due to the transactions being suspected as fraudulent.
Van der Puye was interviewed by IFED, during which he provided a prepared statement denying the fraud. He claimed that the policies were taken out by a broker he had found on Instagram, but would not provide any more information on this individual when asked.
Stephen Dalton, Head of Intelligence and Investigations at the IFB, said:
“From the start of this investigation, it was clear we were dealing with a ghost broker unlike any other. Not only was this fraudster using stolen personal information to sell bogus insurance policies on a large scale, but his customers were also in on the act - requesting fraudulent motor insurance so they could use the road without being detected for no insurance.
“This case goes to show just how far-reaching and dangerous the impact of insurance fraud can be. Now that Van der Puye has been stopped in his tracks, it also means many of his so-called clients who were knowingly flouting the law, have also been prevented from committing fraud.
“In what has been a challenging investigation in partnership with IFED, we’re very pleased to see justice has been served and we hope that this conviction serves as a warning to anyone thinking of taking out bogus insurance services. We’re on to them.”