Criminal group heads to prison for £1 million property fraud

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Five members of an organised group who profited to the tune of £1 million from fraudulent claims for property damage and loss of earnings have received prison sentences.

Kashif Bhatti, Ramone Carty, Jurelle Hayles, Nyron Hughes and Tarquinn Orgill were sentenced at the Inner London Crown Court for a mix of conspiracy to defraud and money laundering offences:

  • Kashif Bhatti, 35, of Wightman Road, Harringay, London, was sentenced to two years in prison
  • Ramone Carty, 36, of Janson Close, Neasden, London, was sentenced to three years in prison
  • Jurelle Hayles, 30, of Huntingdon Road, Edmonton, London, was sentenced to 20 months in prison, suspended for two years, and 300 hours of unpaid work
  • Nyron Hughes, 35, of Cherrydown Avenue, Chingford, London, was sentenced to four years in prison
  • Tarquinn Orgill, 34, of Cherrydown Avenue, Chingford, London, was sentenced to five years in prison

The City of London Police’s Insurance Fraud Enforcement Department (IFED) first became aware of the group’s fraudulent activity after a referral from Zurich. The insurer became suspicious of a claim it received for property damage and business interruption at a wine bar in Sleaford, Lincolnshire, caused by a burst water pipe.

After confirming that the claim for property damage against Zurich was indeed fraudulent, IFED went onto uncover several other instances of fraud carried out by the group in the preceding years.

The group had been operating nationally and had targeted a total of 14 different insurers using the same tactic, leading to an investigation carried out by IFED on a scale that had never before been attempted within the unit or the wider insurance industry.

The lead officer in the case exposed several members of the group early on in the investigation by obtaining their fingerprints through a forensic examination at the wine bar in Lincolnshire, which didn’t feature in the initial referral from Zurich.

Between December 2012 and April 2016, the group identified four bars and one restaurant across England, and one by one, they used them to facilitate their fraud. After leasing each of the properties using a shell company, they proceeded to incept a total of 26 commercial property policies, each with a different insurer, and then make a fraudulent property damage claim on each policy.

Each of the claims were for the same issue, an escape of water from a burst pipe leading to significant property damage and subsequent loss of earnings while the premises stopped trading. A loss adjuster would then attend the premises to check the validity of the claim.

In reality, the venue was never open for trade. False leases and documents were supplied to loss adjustors by the group to portray that a legitimate business was in operation over a two-year period prior to the claim.

In total, 15 of the policies were subject to successful property damage claims and £944,206 was paid out. This money was then laundered through various bank accounts held by members of the group and eventually withdrawn in cash.

In addition to the money that the group stole from insurers, Hughes, Bhatti and Hayles also pleaded guilty to defrauding American Express to the value of £62,497. They fraudulently obtained gold business accounts and misused the cards for high-value transactions.

IFED’s investigation revealed that Hughes & Orgill, who are cousins, were the main orchestrators behind the fraud and were involved in all of the claims made against each property. The other suspects were brought into the fraud to help front the policies and claims.

City of London Police’s detective constable Daniel Dankoff, who led the investigation for IFED, said: “The group used a complex set of tactics to try and remain undetected and defraud numerous members of the insurance and banking industries for several years—which shows that the bigger the lie, the more the insurance industry may believe.”

“However, thanks to the initial referral by Zurich, we were able to undercover the full extent of their fraudulent activity, dismantle the group and bring them to justice.”

Dankoff added: “Insurance fraud is not a victimless crime. Fraudsters, such as the members in this group, cause significant financial harm to the insurance industry which then leads to higher premiums for everyone who need insurance, whether it be for personal or commercial cover.”

Scott Clayton, head of claims fraud at Zurich, commented: “This was a very complex case due to the scale of fraud and the level of detail to which these fraudsters organised their operation. It clearly demonstrates the depth and sophistication of fraud that insurers in the UK are faced with each day. As the battle against fraud continues, it is incredibly important that we evolve and use our agility to keep up with the ever-changing fraud landscape.”

“It was the experience and vigilance of the Zurich’s fraud team which enabled IFED to take down this complex operation and bring these criminals to justice. These people not only break the law to make a living, but they also bring the cost of insurance up for honest individuals and business who want to protect what matters to them the most.”

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Mark Dugdale is the editor of Claims Media. Mark welcomes articles, letters or feedback from readers and can be reached via mark.dugdale@barkerbrooks.co.uk