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£5.6 million Crash for Cash criminal gang found guilty

16 July 2015

An organised criminal gang which carried out Crash for Cash insurance scams and attempted to defraud the UK insurance industry of circa £5.6 million has been found guilty of ‘conspiracy to defraud’ (15 July 2015) following a five-week trial at Isleworth Crown Court. The six defendants will be sentenced on 2 October 2015.

The convictions follow an intensive investigation and operation by the Metropolitan Police Service (Operation Catcher), which was supported by the Insurance Fraud Bureau (IFB), Zurich Insurance and Direct Line Group.

The gang operated a claims management company called ‘Herald Claims Limited’, (which had previously traded under the names of ‘Euro Claim Management’ and ‘FS Claim management’), from an office block in north London, where fraudulent or inflated insurance claims would be submitted following ‘Crash for Cash’ collisions, which had been orchestrated by the gang.

The gang’s criminal activity came to the attention of the MPS Roads and Transport Policing Command who mounted a thorough and comprehensive investigation.  

The investigation identified that the gang would recruit car owners who would be willing to hand over their cars to be deliberately crashed into (commonly referred to as the ‘stooge vehicle’). The gang would then drive their vehicle (the decoy car) in convoy with the stooge vehicle. The two vehicles would travel up and down various stretches of road until a suitable victim was identified. The two vehicles would then position themselves directly in front of the victim’s car and then at an opportune moment the decoy vehicle would brake hard, causing the stooge vehicle to brake, over exaggerate the braking and stop, resulting in the victim’s vehicle crashing into the back of their vehicle.

Detective Chief Superintendent Paul Rickett, Roads and Transport Policing Command, said: “This was an audacious, criminal act, carried out by unscrupulous people whose sole aim was to line their pockets at the expense of their victims. They did not care whatsoever that their reckless acts endangered the lives of innocent people.

“We are committed to detecting, disrupting and arresting those involved in crime as demonstrated by our thorough and robust investigation, which left no stone unturned in catching these offenders.”  

Ben Fletcher, Director of the IFB, said: “Induced accidents like this form part of the ‘crash for cash’ insurance fraud phenomenon and the reality is that these scams have a real impact on society by putting the lives of innocent people at risk and costing honest policy holders almost £400 million each year. Insurance cheats should be aware that the Insurance Fraud Bureau works very closely with the police and the insurance industry to detect fraudsters and bring them to justice.”

Scott Clayton, Claims Fraud and Investigations Manager, Zurich Insurance, said: “Convictions such as these demonstrate the value of collaboration between insurers and the Metropolitan Police. We are delighted that the perpetrators of this fraud have been brought to justice.”

Mark Chiappino, Counter Fraud Manager, Direct Line Group, said: "At Direct Line Group, we detect and deter as much fraud as possible, from a collaborative approach including sophisticated data analysis, the use of intelligence and highly skilled investigators, across our whole business. We work with all law enforcement agencies to assist them in preparing cases for criminal prosecution. Successful prosecutions like this one, protects the wider public from these scams and enables us to protect the premiums of our innocent customers."