An outline of the facts of the case against Tommy Maher, aged 52, of Scarteen, Newmarket, Co Cork, and originally from Doneraile, was given yesterday at Cork Circuit Criminal Court before the adjournment of sentencing to February 12 with the father of four in jail until then.
Donal O’Sullivan, defending, said towards the end of the evidence that Maher had €25,000 to pay back in respect of the elaborate scam.
Judge Séan Ó Donnabháin who was about to sentence Maher yesterday, asked if the money was in court and the barrister said it would be available on Monday.
The judge put an abrupt halt to the sentencing at that point and said to the barrister: “Your lad might be from Doneraile but this is not Cahirmee,” referring to the famous annual horse-trading event.
Judge Ó Donnabháin said that if Maher was offering compensation he should have it in court on February 11.
Det Sgt Séan Leahy and Sgt Noel Madden gave evidence on a Garda investigation, code-named Operation Nascar co-ordinated by the Organised Crime Unit at Anglesea St Garda Station, which looked into six accidents staged for the purpose of making fraudulent insurance claims.
Det Sgt Leahy said there were staged accidents at Redbarn Cross in Youghal on April 20 2011, at Clash West in Leamlara on June 18, 2011, and at Model Farm Rd in Cork City on February 1,7 2011.
The same modus operandi was used in each case. Eight or nine people met up before an accident, travelled to the scene in two cars, everyone got out except the driver of one car who crashed into an empty car in front. The passengers then jumped in and calls were made to gardaí and the ambulance service and complaints of soft tissue injuries such as whiplash were reported to the emergency services who arrived at the scene.
This was followed up by claims against insurance companies including, Axa, Aviva, and Quinn (Liberty).
As soon as the insurers agreed to settle the cases and pay out various sums rather than having the cases contested in court, the passengers were advised to take what was offered and pass it on to the organisers who would give them a percentage of the payment.
“They were recruited prior to the traffic accident and told to go to the scene where the cars would collide and they would hop in after the accident,” Det Sgt Leahy said.
A total of €165,000 was paid out in the three frauds against the insurance companies and €121,000 remains outstanding.
“Maher was the leader of this gang,” said Det Sgt Leahy.
Mr O’Sullivan objected to that evidence.
In total, 50 arrests were made in the investigation of the six accidents.