[A] joint operation between police, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and the Insurance Fraud Bureau (IFB) has resulted in 34 people sentenced for motor insurance fraud offences.
The sentencing, which has taken place over the past few days at Carlisle Crown Court, is a result of Operation Atrium which was a money laundering and fraud by false representation investigation into Mark McCracken, between 2010 and 2014. The evidence in this investigation involved multiple fraudulent insurance claims for road traffic collisions that have occurred in Cumbria since 2010.
The claims, which range in value, were claimed against various insurance companies and made for personal injury, vehicle damage, recovery storage and hire car costs. The claims were made against other drivers insurance and were all made by false identities.
The scam created by McCracken, aged 48, drew in many of his criminal associates through a number of levels. McCracken collaborated with four local garage owners and car dealers to provide him with MOT certificates for cars bought under false identities and MOT certificates with heavily-reduced mileages.
The scam was valued at over £600,000 and included claims following 27 bogus road traffic collisions. Police found identity packs at a family address of McCracken which contained fake driving licences, bank books in false names and memory aids on post-it notes for each invented person.
McCracken was jailed for seven years for 13 counts of fraud and one of using false documents. Eight of McCracken’s criminal associates were also issued with prison sentences for their role in the fraudulent operation:
- Stuart Bell, from Wigton, was jailed for two years
- Richard Miller, from Wigton, was jailed for 18 months
- Duncan Pape, from Carlisle, was jailed for 15 months
- Craig Palmer, from Carlisle, was jailed for 15 months
- Michelle Lockhart, from Wigton, was jailed for 12 months
- Jonathan Scott, from Wigton, was jailed for 9 months
- Darren Snowdon, from Carlisle, was jailed for four months
- Stuart Wise, from Carlisle, was jailed for 36 weeks
Working with Cumbria Police, the Insurance Fraud Bureau (IFB) was able to identify the reach of this widespread fraud across the insurance industry. The IFB acts as a central data hub for the insurance industry to detect and disrupt organised motor insurance fraud – it detects suspicious patterns and fraudulent insurance claims that individual insurers alone cannot detect – and works in partnership with police to support the arrests of suspected fraudsters.
Temporary Detective Chief Inspector Dave Stalker, of Cumbria Constabulary’s Serious and Organised Crime Unit, said: “Due to the large number of people involved, this has been a lengthy and complex investigation which has led to the sentencing of ringleader McCracken and his associates.
“Not only has McCracken gone to great lengths to launder money and commit serial fraud, his confidence in his own criminality grew to the extent he was claiming collisions occurred on the same day he opened insurance contracts.
“I’d like to thank the detectives that have spent a great number of hours in order to bring these 35 people to justice. I would also like to thank the CPS and the IFB for their assistance and support during the investigation.
“This should serve as a warning to others thinking of doing similar that there are serious consequences to making false insurance claims. Crash-for-cash scams will be investigated and those involved could end up with a criminal conviction. In addition we will seek to remove assets from those we identify as having profited.”
Ben Fletcher, Director of the Insurance Fraud Bureau (IFB), said: “The sentences handed down today send a clear message that prosecution is a very real consequence for people committing insurance fraud. In this case the fraudsters, driven by greed, used extreme methods such as manipulating a vehicle’s mileage in an attempt to exploit the industry, and ultimately honest premium-paying motorists.
“At the IFB we are committed to working with law enforcement agencies, such as Cumbria Police, to take the fight to the fraudster and we urge the public to also fight back by reporting what they know to the IFB’s Cheatline.”
One further person, Peter Farish, will be sentenced at a later date. The other 25 people were issued with a variety of suspended and community service sentences.