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‘Crash for Cash’ fraudster sentenced to 7 years in prison

07 August 2012

An insurance fraudster who masterminded one of the UK’s biggest ‘crash for cash’ scams has been sentenced to seven years and three months in prison.

Masi Naqshbandi (27, of Notting Hill) was found guilty of staging hundreds of road traffic accidents in order to make insurance claims which would have been worth over £6.5 million had the scam not been uncovered by the Insurance Fraud Bureau (IFB). Naqshbandi’s accomplice, Sabaoon Hillaman (24, of Greenford, Middlesex),was also found guilty of conspiracy to defraud and was sentenced to four years and ten months in prison at Croydon Crown Court on Friday.

Between 2007 and 2008, Naqshbandi and Hillaman submitted over 250 fraudulent insurance claims through their London-based accident management company – Real Accident Helpline. In some cases, vehicles were deliberately crashed or damaged to mimic a road traffic accident. In other cases, accidents were entirely made-up by presenting false names and paperwork. In all cases, credit hire, personal injury and inflated damage costs meant each claim was worth tens of thousands of pounds.

Aviva Insurance first alerted the IFB to the case after receiving a series of almost identical claims from Real Accident Helpline. At the same time, the IFB received intelligence through its confidential Cheatline service from a member of the public reporting serious fraud at Real Accident Helpline.

Using world-leading technology, fraud analysts at the IFB gathered evidence linking Real Accident Helpline to over 250 fraudulent claims, worth in excess of £6.5 million. In the summer of 2008, the Metropolitan Police Service’s (MPS) Traffic Command Unit (Operation Catcher) arrested Naqshbandi and Hillaman in a series of dawn raids. Seizure of evidence during the raids and subsequent enquiries made by the Police, the IFB and 20 insurers affected by the scam saw Naqshbandi and Hillaman charged with conspiracy to defraud.

Phil Bird, Director of the Insurance Fraud Bureau (IFB), said:

“This unprecedented sentence sends a clear message to fraudsters – the insurance industry is fighting back and fraudsters will be caught and prosecuted no matter how big or complex their scam may be.

“This investigation demonstrates the sophistication of the insurance industry’s counter-fraud activity. It also shows how insurers are working together, through the IFB, to help the Police disrupt organised criminal activity.

“Fraud is not a victimless crime. As honest policyholders, we all pick up the bill for fraudsters like Naqshbandi and Hillaman. Around £50 is added to every insurance premium to cover the cost of fraud. The IFB has received nearly 9,000 reports of fraud through the Cheatline in the last couple of years – a clear indication that honest policyholders are no longer willing to pick up the bill for fraudsters.”

Part of Naqshbandi and Hillaman’s scam involved recruiting people from the local community to donate their cars to be damaged and used in the claims process. The pair used the proceeds of their crime to fund a lavish lifestyle, driving prestige vehicles such as Audi Q7s and BMW X5s and staying in Dubai’s famous seven star hotel, the Burj Al Arab.

Detective Inspector David Hindmarsh, Operation Catcher lead, said:

“The MPS Operation Catcher team commenced this investigation almost five years ago, during which time we have worked in partnership with a number of agencies including the IFB and many UK insurance companies to bring about these successful convictions. I hope that today's lengthy custodial sentences send a clear message to anyone involved in insurance fraud that the police will actively investigate them and where appropriate place them before the courts.”

Tom Gardiner, Head of Loss Prevention at Aviva, said:

“Aviva takes insurance fraud very seriously. We work in a co-ordinated manner with the wider market and key agencies such as the IFB to share information on suspected fraudulent activity.  We also have a range of sophisticated controls to detect both opportunist and organised fraud – including dedicated teams which are currently investigating over 200 motor fraud rings. The message is clear: if you commit fraud, the chances are you will be identified and prosecuted.”

To report individuals and companies involved in insurance fraud, contact the IFB’s free and confidential Cheatline on 0800 422 0421, or report online at www.insurancefraudbureau.org/report.

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