A network of extended family members and friends colluding on a staged car crash were ordered to pay back QBE Insurance for costs plus exemplary damages to the tune of more than £300,000, following a trial which stretched over two years.
QBE successfully pursued the case after red flags were raised by its customer, a car hire company. Mr Benjamin Firth rented a VW van from Afford Rent A Car and claimed he accidentally ran into the back of Valentino Martone of Congleton’s Lexus, in which a third claimant, Andrew Gaskell of Stoke on Trent was a passenger, which in turn, it was alleged, pushed the Lexus into David Molyneux from Stockport’s Alfa Romeo. The accident was claimed to have happened on/at the junction of New Platt Lane and the A50 in Goostrey, Cheshire back in July 2013.
Upon investigation, experts from QBE’s Special Investigation Unit (SIU) found that the claim was riddled with inconsistencies. Vehicle telematics data from the van revealed that the crash hadn’t occurred where it was claimed to have. Instead, it appeared the collision happened near/in a garage forecourt which was some few hundred yards from the alleged location of the accident. The data however did show that the van had visited the purported accident site both prior and after the alleged accident.
Further investigation by QBE’s SIU team uncovered a family connection between the different parties involved. Two of the three vehicles involved in the crash were previously owned or in the process of being sold from a garage belonging to Valentino Martone’s brother. The Lexus was found to have only travelled 10 miles since its last MOT to the date of the alleged accident. In addition, hire vehicles and other invoices were linked to one or more of Valentino Martone’s close relatives. To top things off, the alleged site of the incident was close to a residential address belonging to Martone’s parents, and the VW van telematics showed the vehicle had visited this address immediately prior to the alleged accident.
The claim the fraudsters put in against Afford Rent A Car and QBE totalled more than £50k and included costs for hire, storage, recovery, vehicle damage and injury.
The full summary of evidence determined that the incident had likely been staged between the vehicles at the garage premises owed by Valentino Martone’s brother and the whole accident was an elaborate set up.
Following an unheard of 20-day trial at Manchester County Court, which involved a couple of appeals throughout the trial to the High Court Recorded Eccles ruled that the claims were fundamentally dishonest and ordered Valentino Martone, David Molyneaux and Andrew Gaskell to pay back over £300,000 to QBE. The claimants, as a last ditched attempt, appealed to the High Court to have the judgement overturned, this was refused. The recovery process took over 18 months to finalise, with multiple attempts by the claimants to evade payment.
Mike East, Claims Director of QBE European Operations, said: “This was clearly a staged incident for the purpose of material gain. Cases such as these are not victimless crimes. The costs associated with these types of fraud ultimately cost the public money due to police and court time, with this case in particular taking up 20 days of county court time. Fraudulent activities such as this drive up the cost of insurance for society as a whole and we are pleased with the outcome of this case and hope it serves as a deterrent for other would-be insurance fraudsters.”