People attempting to defraud insurance companies are being caught red-handed by police forces around the world, as awareness of scams is heightened and security forces crack down on such actions
A British council benefits officer who lied to insurers 28 times to get £88,000 in payment for spuriously cancelled holidays was jailed for two years on 5 June at Leicester Crown Court. Between 2007 and 2011, Umesh Gordhan took out travel insurance policies that covered holiday cancellations with multiple providers, an investigation by the industry and the City of London Police’s Insurance Fraud Enforcement Department (IFED) found. The 48-year-old then submitted claims stating that he had cancelled a holiday villa he had booked in Alicante, Spain, due to ill health. Gordhan provided a variety of documents in support of all his claims, including medical certificates signed by a GP and flight and accommodation booking and cancellation confirmation. His fraud unravelled when claims handling firm Intana discovered Gordhan had made almost identical insurance claims to a variety of insurers using the same personal information each time. Intana referred the claims to IFED for investigation in April 2014 and Gordhan was arrested at his home under the unit’s nationwide ‘day of action’ against travel insurance fraud.
On Gordhan’s home computer detectives found the documents he had sent to insurers to back up his claims. All of the documents were counterfeit including the medical certificates, with Gordhan forging his GP’s signature and practice stamp. On examining his bank accounts detectives found he had spent the money he had fraudulently gained gradually over five years to support his lifestyle.
In an interview, Gordhan claimed he was a victim of identity theft and that someone had used his personal information to commit the offences, but later pleaded guilty to ten counts of fraud by false representation. Two counts of obtaining property by deception were ordered to lie on file.
Police staff investigator Tony Freeman, who led IFED’s investigation, said: “For years Gordhan lived a lifestyle more lavish than he could fund through his legitimate employment and so systematically conned travel insurance providers to get tens of thousands of pounds he was not entitled to. He did not think that anyone would check his claims but the work of insurers and the Insurance Fraud Enforcement Department means his fraud has now been uncovered and he has been brought to book.”
The total value of the claims submitted by Gordhan was £118,548.01. The amount paid by insurers to Gordhan was £88,503.64. On being challenged as to the validity of two claims he submitted to Great Lakes and Chartis, Gordhan repaid £9,298.98. The total outstanding loss to victim insurers is £79,204.66. IFED has applied to the court under the Proceeds of Crime Act to recover the remainder of the money fraudulently gained by Gordhan through his criminal activity.
Travel insurance fraudsters are also being caught in the act in other countries. A South African tourist was recently arrested in Phuket after lying to police about his belongings being stolen. Laurie Botha reported that items worth around 150,000 Thai baht had been stolen from his hotel room; however, when police looked at CCTV footage of the hotel, what they saw was Botha leaving the hotel with his bag. When confronted, Botha admitted that he had lied about the crime ‘in order to file a compensation claim with his insurance company back in South Africa’. Botha may face jail before being deported back to his home country.