One of the most elaborate ‘crash for cash’ scams uncovered by insurers has been derailed this week. In total, claims could have risen to £1.3M had all been paid out.
But Chester CID apprehended John Christopher Smith, MD of Swift Accident Solutions, before all of the 218 referrals received compensation.
Smith, of North Wales, is now beginning a six-and-a-half year jail sentence as the orchestrator of the scam. In all, Judge Andrew Blake convicted another 13 people for their part.
First Direct suspicious of similarity
First Direct first noticed a pattern when investigating a series of incidents involving First Group buses in and around Chester. The similarity was striking, and it was this similarity that drew suspicion.
In all, there were seven staged ‘crashes’. Drivers of vans or cars would wait for a scheduled bus to pull out then gently bump into it. The incidents happened at low speed and the driver of the van or car would admit liability.
How did that work, then? The ingenious part of the scam was that people on the bus itself were in on it. As soon as the collision took place, they would feign their injuries.
Whiplash and soft-tissue injury cited as the cause of injury
Soft tissue and whiplash injuries were the modus operandi. These were the obvious choice as such injuries are difficult to prove.
These scammers informed their GPs that they’d been in a collision and they’d then issue a sick note. The fakers would then take along their doctor’s note with the claim, Smith would refer them and collect the referral fee.
On average, Smith was pocketing around £900 per no-win, no-fee referral. 177 cases in all are adjudged to have been processed in this manner.
During the period that he was running the scam, a little over a year, it’s estimated he grossed £159,000. He was jailed on fraud and conspiracy charges that could have risen to over £1M if they’d gone unchecked.
Rachel Cooper, the last member of the gang to be tried for the scam, escaped a custodial sentence. The 32-year old from Great Sutton escaped with an 18-month suspended sentence.
She did, however, receive an order to undertake 250 hours unpaid work as a repayment of her debt to society.
£600,000 fraud case brought by Direct Line
Elsewhere, Max Clifford is once again in the media for all the wrong reasons. This time, however, it’s not the publicity guru in the dock.
Clifford was filmed in a coffee shop with Kevin Morgan, a former manager from Weybridge, who was himself under surveillance.
Morgan was in a ‘low impact’ accident in 2005. But the injuries he sustained have deteriorated to the extent that he can no longer live a normal life. Both psychiatrist and the original doctor’s statements seem to support Mr Morgan’s defence.
Direct Line, however, still became suspicious. Between 2009-2012, the insurers placed Morgan under surveillance.
On ten of those occasions, he was seen to leave the house. Any signs of the reported spasms in his neck didn’t materialise. Moreover, the prosecution commented that his demeanour in court was completely different to that on film.
Mr Morgan said that he has both good and bad days. It was on one of the good days that he was filmed in the coffee shop with Mr Clifford.
Whole livelihood on the line
Direct Line have now taken Morgan to court to try to claim £600,000 fraud, suggesting that the injuries the victim sustained have been exaggerated.
His defence is arguing that the evidence supports the ex-manager’s claim. Morgan can now only live a ‘retired lifestyle’, a far cry from the handyman he was before the accident occurred.
The limitations are such that Mr Morgan now exists within a 1,350ft radius from around his once ‘immaculate’ home. The meeting in the coffee shop falls within that territory.
Mr Morgan has also spoken out against Direct Line’s heavy-handed approach. He likened his treatment to being ‘on a murder charge’.
Despite the fact that he could lose his home if he’s found guilty of fraud, Morgan insists that he wants this opportunity to clear his name.