Staging scam car accidents not victimless crime: judge

Staging insurance scam accidents is not a victimless crime, a sentencing judge declared yesterday, as he said such actions could cloud the making of valid claims and cause a premium rise for legitimate motorists.
Staging scam car accidents not victimless crime: judge

Judge David Riordan’s comments came at Cork Circuit Criminal Court in a case arising out of false insurance claims from elaborately staged car accidents. The matters arose from a Garda investigation, code-named Operation Nascar, co-ordinated by the Organised Crime Unit at Cork’s Anglesea St Garda Station.

Six of those involved avoided jail yesterday but one, reported to be more heavily involved, was jailed.

Gardaísecured confidential information of the scams and officers mounted covert surveillance and managed to video the accidents and, in some cases, people jumping out of ditches and into cars to make it look like they had been caught up in the accidents.

Theaccidents at the centre of the case were reported at Monastery Hill, Rochestown, in December 2011; Carrigane, Mitchelstown, in August 2012; Clyda Bridge, Mallow, in September 2012; Redbarn Cross, Youghal, in April 2011; Model Farm Rd in Cork City in February 2011; and at Clash West, Leamlara, Co Cork, in June 2011.

Brian Carroll, aged 41, of Blueberry Fields, Midleton, Co Cork, pleaded guilty to three counts of deception where insurance firm losses were caused by other people’s claims to the amounts of €76,000, €68,000 and €20,000. He made a personal €4,000 claim which he repaid.

Dermot Sheehan, defence barrister, said that while Carroll did recruit others to take part in the staged accidents he was not the main organiser of the bogus claims. Judge Riordan said Carroll went into these three separate crimes with his eyes wide open and was at a higher level in the pyramid. Carroll got a two-and-a-half year sentence with the last 18 months suspended.

John Murphy, aged 55, of 118 Blackwater Heights, Youghal, pleaded guilty to a charge of deception and one of making a false report. Sgt Noel Madden said there was a total of eight people travelling in the two cars in the bogus accident. Murphy received a two-year suspended sentence and 100 hours of community service.

Rory Keating of Killinane, Liscarroll, Mallow, pleaded guilty to a charge of deception and making a false report. Sgt Madden said Keating’s offences also arose out of the same staged accident. He was involved in assisting the organisation of the scam but did not benefit financially from it.

The 61-year-old had no previous convictions of any kind but was dealing with alcohol difficulties and had fallen off the wagon around the time, according to his barrister, Siobhán Lankford. The judge imposed 200 hours of community service .

Peter Lonergan, Killeagh Gardens, Killeagh, pleaded guilty to one charge of deception where he made a €1,405 gain. He drove his car into the rear of another car. By the time gardaí arrived the number of people claiming to have been in the cars totalled nine. He received an 18-month suspended sentence and a three-year driving ban.

Rory Hannaway, aged 29, of 42 Bonnóg, Midleton, was the driver of a car with one passenger which drove into the rear of a people carrier, allegedly carrying eight people. Garda Holland said he did not gain financially but others claimed €76,000. Hannaway received a two-year suspended sentence on condition he pays €10,000 to the insurance company before January 2018.

Earlier this year in a related case detected under Operation Nascar, he got three years’ suspended and 190 hours community work for claiming €10,500 from an insurance company and was in the process of repaying the balance of that.

Tom Power defending said the accused wasactively involved in his local community and was highly embarrassed by what he had done.

Ian Gosnell, aged 46, of Maple Lane, Carrigtwohill, pleaded guilty to deception, allowing his car to be used in an accident.

He brought €7,000 compensation to court. He got an 18-month suspended sentence and was ordered to pay €10,000 by October 2019.

Selena Sexton, aged 39, of 118 Blackwater Heights, Youghal got a suspended 18-month sentence.

UPDATED 18:02 (3/11/2015)

Responding to the sentences, Robert Smyth, Fraud Manager at Aviva General Insurance said: “The convictions of these insurance fraudsters throughout 2015 clearly shows that by working together, the insurance industry and the Gardai can win against these fraudsters in the criminal courts. In particular Aviva welcomes the fact that one of the main organisers will spend 1 year of 2 1/2 year sentence in prison."

He added that fraud is not just an insurance industry concern.  “In addition to adding €50 to the cost of premiums, staged accidents also take up the time as well as resources of the Gardai and other emergency services diverting them from cases of genuine need. That’s why it’s so important that the industry is proactive in tackling this fraudulent activity both in the civil courts and the criminal courts,” concluded Rob Smyth of Aviva.

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