Insurance Fraud Bureau

Gwent man jailed after fabricating elaborate household fires in bid for insurance payout

19 November 2020

William James - provided by Tarian, South Wales Police.jpg

A Gwent man has been jailed after fabricating a string of elaborate household fires following a joint investigation between the Insurance Fraud Bureau (IFB) and South Wales Police.

William James, 64 of Blackwood, Gwent, was sentenced to 16 months in prison after an appearance at Newport Crown Court on 13 November 2020. Mr James previously pleaded guilty to these offences following a court hearing on 2 October 2020.

Investigators were first made aware of Mr James’ fraudulent activities following a tip off to the IFB, where it transpired a series of near-identical claims all following alleged household fires had been made under different names across Gwent county.

On four occasions, claims had been made for a £695 damaged wig believed to have been used for ‘karaoke nights’, after being knocked onto a lit hob.

In at least three further instances, claims were made for gold rings that had been lost in the back of an ambulance following a fire rescue, which was confirmed by local authorities to have never taken place.

Several claims were also found to have been made for chip pans that had been catching fire and causing damage to kitchen interiors.

Stephen Dalton, Head of Intelligence and Investigations at the IFB, said:

“While these insurance claims may sound amusing, the reality is making false claims in a bid to get a pay out from insurers is fraud, which will inevitably leave those who do it out of luck and facing jailtime. Insurance fraud impacts innocent policyholders who have to pick up the bill in increased premiums. We urge members of the public who have seen evidence of an insurance scam to report it to the IFB’s confidential Cheatline on 0800 422 0421.” 

Detective Sergeant Mark Burge of the Tarian ROCU Disruption Team, said: 

“William James carried out his offences over a period of 10 years between 2007 and 2017.” 

“His conviction and imprisonment is the culmination of a lot of detailed work by officers from the Disruption Team within Tarian, the Regional Organised Crime Unit, supported by South Wales Police and the Insurance Fraud Bureau.”

“Anyone who sets out to defraud insurance companies will be investigated and brought before the Courts. James’ sentence will serve as a warning to others who may think that this is acceptable behaviour. This result is an example of the continued successful partnership working between law enforcement agencies including the police, Regional Organised Crime Units such as Tarian and our network of partners - in the case the IFB – relentlessly to disrupt all forms of organised crime and bring offenders to justice."

The IFB which is a not-for-profit organisation that investigations organised insurance fraud, found Mr James had created a series of fake identities and falsified invoices for lost and damaged goods to help enable his fraudulent activities.  

In total, four insurers were affected including Aviva, Direct Line Group and Zurich with all fraudulent claims collectively valued at around £60,000.  

Currently at least one insurance scam takes place every minute in the UK, which is estimated to cost insurers and honest consumers £3 billion a year.

Property fraud is a fast growing scam, with recent figures from the Association of British Insurers (ABI) showing dishonest claims for lost and damaged property rose 30% in 2019.

There are also concerns that the current economic climate caused by the disruption of Covid-19 could see insurance fraud levels rise further.

Evidence of an insurance scam can be reported to the IFB’s confidential and anonymous Cheatline (powered by Crimestoppers) on 0800 422 0421 or online.

The IFB uses information from Cheatline reports to work with insurers, the police and industry watchdogs to help fight fraud, keep people safe and keep costs down.

 

Industry comments

Tom Gardiner, Head of Fraud, Aviva, said:

“The successful prosecution of Mr James shows, once again, that insurance fraud is a crime that will not be tolerated. Insurers and Police now have effective mechanisms in place to share data and intelligence to fight insurance fraud and protect genuine customers – and which ultimately defeated Mr James’ attempt to defraud multiple insurance companies over several years. In this case, Mr James’ fraud included a claim for damage to a wig used at karaoke nights – but which is now likely to leave him singing a very different tune.”

 

Mike Brown, Head of Counter Fraud Intelligence & Disclosure at Direct Line Group said:

"At Direct Line Group, we detect and deter as much fraud as possible, from a collaborative approach including sophisticated data analysis, the use of intelligence and highly skilled investigators, across our whole business. We work with all law enforcement agencies to assist them in preparing cases for criminal prosecution.”

“Successful prosecutions like this one, protects the wider public and enables us to protect the premiums of our innocent customers.  We are delighted that the perpetrator of this fraud have been brought to justice, the sentence should serve as a stark warning to others that Insurance Fraud is not a victimless crime and harsh sentences will be sought in support of DLG zero tolerance approach to insurance fraud.”

 

Scott Clayton, Head of Claims Fraud at Zurich Insurance said:

“The mendacity of those making fraudulent insurance claims never ceases to amaze me. That we were already investigating this case and another, similar, fraudulent claim should then be intimated by the same person is just staggering.”

“I want to thank the IFB for all their invaluable help. At Zurich we pride ourselves on our ability to promptly detect criminal acts so it has been hugely beneficial to gain insight in to all the past counts of insurance fraud that had taken place. More to the point - we have now stopped a serial-fraudster from conducting further, future counts of fraud.”