Man convicted of crash for cash scam, as police appeal to the public over £100k Mr Whippy van insurance fraud
We have all heard of crash for cash scams – where criminals or organized gangs target innocent motorists to defraud insurers, but this case has 99 reasons and a flake on top when it comes to not keeping a low profile.
Barry Mark Sandmann, 39, of Brompton Lane, Strood, Kent used his ice cream van to stage fake accidents across the country. The ice cream van was identified as being linked to three separate fraudulent insurance claims, which, had they all been paid out in full, would have cost the insurers in the region of £100,000.
On 28 December 2013, Sandmann was driving his uninsured van at the entrance to a builder’s yard in Strood when he reversed into another van. He then took out an insurance policy with Allianz shortly after the collision and lied about the time of the accident. But his story was proved false when the driver of the other vehicle produced time-stamped images of the damage, which were taken about an hour before Sandmann claimed the collision happened.
Sandmann continued to insure his van with Allianz and on 5 February 2014 he contacted them again to report he’d been involved in a collision with an ice cream van in Strood.
A forged estimate for the repairs to the ice cream van was sent to Allianz for £23,880. When the ice cream van was inspected in Leicester, where it had been moved and stored, it was recognised by specialists who had only inspected it months before in Burnley for another claim. NFU Mutual had paid out £15,400 by cheque to an address in Burnley where the driver claimed to live, despite the accident happening in Bristol.
Allianz referred the case to the Insurance Fraud Enforcement Department where detectives discovered that the NFU Mutual cheque was cashed by somebody using a false Irish driving licence as identification.
After an alert by IFED was issued to the insurance industry about the scam, a further case involving the same ice cream van came to light; this time the collision supposedly in Burnley in August 2013 and the claim being dealt with by Covéa Insurance. Their engineer inspected the van, but found it was using false plates as it was a different model and colour to the van it was supposed to be. When they tried to trace the owner, they were unable to contact him.
Furthermore, the other vehicle allegedly involved in the collision was found by Covéa Insurance’s investigators to be on sale on Gumtree just 12 days later, completely undamaged. The driver and two other men who were said to have been in the other vehicle were all given police cautions after they admitted the claims were false.
When detectives compared images of the ice cream van taken by all three insurers, the damage was the same, the stock in the van was the same and the mileage shown on the odometer was identical – indicating that the vehicle had not been driven at any time between the ‘accidents’, let alone between Burnley, Bristol, Leicester and Kent, as per the claims.
Had all the claims been paid out in full, it would have cost the three insurers in the region of £100,000.Sandmann lied about being involved in an accident with an ice cream van in Kent to allow others to make fraudulent claims. Also he lied about the time of another genuine accident to try and get insurance cover for damage caused to another van when he reversed his into it.
Sandmann pleaded guilty at the Old Bailey on Friday 29 April to conspiracy to defraud and fraud by false representation and is due to be sentenced at the Old Bailey on 27 May.
Detective Constable Paula Doyle, from the Insurance Fraud Enforcement Department, who investigated the case said: “In the space of two months, Sandmann not only tried to take out a policy to cover him for an accident that had already happened, but then tried to facilitate a crash for cash scam so that others could profit.
“We’re keen to hear from anyone who may have seen this ice cream van, or knows who owns it, as there are others involved in setting up this scam that we have not been able to identify.
“Thanks to the good relationships and information sharing between IFED and the insurance industry, what first appeared to be an isolated incident has been uncovered as an organised scam and we’re determined to try and identify and bring all those involved to justice.”
Mihir Pandya, fraud manager, Allianz said: “This is another example of people trying to commit insurance fraud being caught and ending up with nothing except a criminal record. We have skilled and experienced fraud teams working at Allianz and we will push for the prosecution of anyone we find trying to defraud us.”
Detectives from the Insurance Fraud Enforcement Department (IFED), which is part of the City of London Police, are now appealing for anyone with information about the van or its owner to contact them, as they continue to try and identify others behind the scam.
Anyone with information should contact IFED on 020 7164 8200 or call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.