Between May 2011 and April 2012, the ghost broker websites duped 600 drivers into buying worthless policies over the telephone
A ‘ghost broker’ has today, Monday 28 October 2013, been jailed for what is believed to be the UK’s biggest fake car insurance scam, following an extensive investigation by the Insurance Fraud Enforcement Department (IFED).
Danyal Buckharee created four websites offering ‘cheap’ car insurance – Aston Midshires Insurance, Astuto Insurance, Car Insurance Warehouse and First Car Direct Insurance – and used paid-for advertising to ensure his online enterprises appeared at the top of internet searches.
Between May 2011 and April 2012, he used the websites to dupe 600 drivers into buying worthless policies over the telephone. Many of the victims were young people insuring their first car. Some only realised they had been conned when they had their car seized by police for having no insurance.
DC Patrick Einsmann, who led the IFED’s investigation. Said “Buckharee executed the UK’s biggest ghost broking scam, making half a million pounds and leaving 600 people oblivious to the fact they were driving on our roads uninsured.
“Buckharee (right) was pulling all the strings, using a collection of sham websites to hawk his fraudulent policies to drivers across the country, frittering away the cash on gambling and girls. Unfortunately for him, a forensic IFED investigation has put these pleasures beyond his reach with him behind bars.”
Also jailed today was his criminal associate, Giovanni Recchia, who helped Buckharee run the First Car Direct Insurance website. Buckharee personally pocketed more than £550,000 from the scam, spending most of the money on his mistress and in casinos. Aston Midshires Insurance first came to the attention of the Motor Insurers’ Bureau (MIB) in late 2011 when the bureau began receiving complaints from drivers who had been stopped by police for driving without insurance.
The MIB passed on concerns and the complaints onto the Insurance Fraud Bureau (IFB) for further examination. When IFED launched in January 2012, the complaints were then handed to the new City of London Police unit. IFED detectives swiftly identified links between Aston Midshires Insurance and two other websites – Astuto Insurance and Car Insurance Warehouse.
Detectives traced the victims’ money to a series of accounts opened at bank branches in south west London and Lincolnshire. This led to the arrest of a man called Mohamed Saleh. Further enquiries revealed that the victims’ money was withdrawn from those bank accounts in large quantities via cash points in south west London.
A myriad of telephone numbers belonging to pay-as-you-go mobile phones were used by Buckharee, one of which led IFED to a riverside penthouse in the Imperial Wharf area of London in April 2012, where detectives arrested his mistress. From there, they tracked Buckharee to a riverside apartment in Wandsworth, London, where he was arrested with Recchia. Detectives found the living room had been turned into an operations centre for another website, First Car Direct Insurance, prompting them to seize laptops, bank cards, mobile phones and insurance documentation including fake insurance certificates.
In the flat a list of fictitious insurance sales staff was found. An audio recording of office noise was also discovered which it is understood Buckharee played while on the telephone to prospective ‘customers’. The investigation team had the website shut down and the associated bank accounts frozen – which prevented £28,000 being lost by victims.
In February 2013, Buckharee admitted two counts of fraud relating to the Aston Midshires Insurance and First Car Direct Insurance websites and three counts of money laundering in relation to the four websites during an appearance at the Old Bailey. He was remanded in custody until sentencing. In September, Recchia was found guilty by an Old Bailey jury of one count of fraud by false representation. The same month, 26-year-old Mohamed Saleh of Silvertree Lane, in Greenford, in London, who was charged with one count of money laundering, was acquitted at the same court.
Earlier today, at the Old Bailey, the following sentences were handed down:
- Buckharee, aged 42, of Coalecroft Road, in Putney in London: three years in prison to be served consecutively to a four-and-a-half year jail term he is currently serving as a result of being convicted of fraud following a separate investigation by the Metropolitan Police.
- Recchia, aged 46, of Galway Crescent, in Retford in Nottinghamshire: 12 months in prison.
DCI Dave Wood, Head of IFED, said: “Crime gangs are increasingly using the internet to deliver their insurance scams directly into our homes. These gangs are ruthless in the pursuit of financial gain so it is vital that drivers shopping online for car insurance question what they see offered on a website to ensure they get a real deal.
“Consumer diligence, coupled with enforcement action being taken by IFED, is the best way to confront this threat now and in the future.”
Ben Fletcher, Director of the IFB, said: “Today’s sentences successfully conclude a landmark investigation into organised ghost broker fraud – a calculated crime which in this case left hundreds of people severely out of pocket and unwittingly exposed to the dangers of driving without insurance. Unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident. The IFB continues to investigate 15 criminal gangs suspected of masterminding ghost broking scams. Honest policyholders ultimately pick up the bill for all forms of fraud. That’s why, alongside IFED and other UK police forces, our job is to disrupt these gangs, bring fraudsters to justice and shut down their scams to prevent the public from falling victim.”
Information on suspected ghost brokers can be reported confidentially through the IFB’s Cheatline, by calling Crimestoppers on 0800 422 0421
Ashton West, Chief Executive of the MIB, said: “Today’s sentences are testament to the diligence of MIB’s Police Helpline, which handles more than 135,000 enquiries from officers every year checking insurance at the roadside. The scam first came to light when drivers being stopped by police were claiming to be insured by Aston Midshires – a company unknown to MIB. Investigations by the Bureau revealed a suspected ghost broker at work, which was immediately reported to the IFB and IFED.
“Exposing this scam and securing prison sentences for the criminals behind it highlights the industry’s determination to tackle fraud from all angles. But motorists also need to protect themselves from ghost broking by being wary of deals that seem too good to be true.”
(Above is the recording of office noise that was discovered which it is understood Buckharee played while on the telephone to prospective ‘customers’)