A cyclist who falsely claimed that a pothole caused him to fall from his bicycle and suffer £175,000 in lost earnings and injuries has been sentenced to three years and six months in prison.
Luboya Tshibangu was sentenced at Cardiff Crown Court for fraud by false representation.
He claimed that his fall, which resulted in a broken right ankle, was caused by the front wheel of his bicycle hitting a pothole in a Cardiff pavement.
Tshibangu served a claim on Cardiff Council following a failed attempt that was rejected based on Section 58 of the Highways Act 1980, which allows the council to defend cases as long as there has been a reasonable schedule of maintenance and upkeep.
His follow-up claim was for £175,000 due to loss of earnings and his injuries.
Cardiff Council’s insurance company referred the case to the City of London Police’s Insurance Fraud Enforcement Department (IFED) after inconsistencies were found in Tshibangu’s statement.
His claimed to have fallen from his bicycle on a brick paved area, but a 999 call made by a passerby about Tshibangu’s injury revealed that the incident had in fact occurred approximately 950 metres away.
The caller also stated that the floor was slippery where Tshibangu was riding his bicycle but did not mention a paving defect.
IFED determined that while Tshibangu had genuinely fallen from his bicycle, it had not happened at the location he had given and it had been as a result of the slippery pavement and not a pothole in the path. As a result, no money was paid out to Tshibangu and he was charged with fraud.
Detective constable Justin Hawes of IFED said: “Tshibangu used a genuine injury in an attempt to lay blame with the council. This blatant attempt at deception was spotted and the work of IFED with the council and its legal team has enabled us to put a stop to Tshibangu’s crime.”
“Legitimate injuries should never be seen as an excuse to misplace blame or inflate circumstances in a bid to make money. False insurance claims increase the costs for all insurance holders by driving up premiums. The result here shows that IFED takes these crimes very seriously and will put a stop to them.”
Councillor Chris Weaver, cabinet member for finance, modernisation and performance at Cardiff Council, commented: “This is a case where someone has sadly had an accident and hurt themselves and tried to lay blame on the council illegally. Fraud is a serious offence and I hope this case sends a clear message that these matters are investigated and if false claims are made, we will work with the relevant authorities to bring these matters to court.”
Potholes are costing drivers and their insurers at least £1 million per month due to massive car repair bills, according to the AA.
Based on the AA’s share of the car insurance market, the broker estimates that there have been more than 4,200 claims for pothole damage so far this year in the UK. With an estimated average repair bill of around £1,000, that comes to £4.2 million, or more than £1 million per month.