Sixteen people, including members of an organised criminal group from Luton, who were linked to nearly 80 crash for cash collisions have been sentenced for their crimes, resulting in over 32 years' in prison as well as a number of suspended sentences.
This follows a successful collaborative investigation between the Insurance Fraud Bureau (IFB), the Eastern Regional Special Operations Unit (ERSOU), City of London Police's Insurane Fraud Enforcement Department (IFED) and the insurance industry.
The IFB was approached by ERSOU in November 2015 after they uncovered a large number of suspicious insurance documents when carrying out an unrelated warrant. ERSOU called upon IFB's expertise to determine if the documents could be related to wider criminal activity.
The documents seized by ERSOU included insurance policies and claims forms which IFB were able to link to a number of suspected crash for cash incidents, painting an overall picture of the scam and identifying Raja Mehmood as being at the centre of it.
As part of the crash for cash scam, he would embroil innocent people in the criminal activity by arranging business meetings with unsuspecting victims and then fraudulently using their details to take out insurance policies on vehicles that would later be involved in collisions. The investigation revealed that Mehmood had been carrying out these reckless crimes for a number of years and would also involve family members and associates as part of the fraud.
The collisions would either be staged by damaging the vehicles off the road or by slamming on the brakes on public roads, putting lives at risks. Mehmood and his accomplices would then make exaggerated claims for vehicle damage and personal injury, such as whiplash, to make money.
IFB identified eight key claims and worked with the insurance industry to strengthen the case to prove the gang's wrongdoing. While these claims formed the basis of the case against the gang, the investigation uncovered almost 80 collisions that could be directly linked to the group.
IFED were also concurrently investigating four of the fraudsters, including Mehmood, following a collision in April 2014 involving three vehicles. During their investigations, they were able to corroborate key pieces of evidence to assist ERSOU and the IFB with their wider investigation and continued to support throughout the duration.
ERSOU carried out the first of the warrants in 2015 and were able to seize more evidence to strengthen the investigation, including solicitor correspondence following collisions, vehicle documentation and copies of driving licences.
While Mehmood initially fled the country, ERSOU persevered with the case and in August 2017 arrested him at the airport as he returned to the UK.
In January 2018, Mehmood pleaded guilty to Conspiracy to Commit Fraud by False Representation and Conspiracy to Commit Dangerous Driving.
Discussing the outcome of the case, Stephen Dalton, IFB's head of intelligence, commented, 'We would like to thank ERSOU for bringing vital information to the IFB, by working closely together we've been able disrupt this notorious criminal gang in the Luton area. Mehmood was the ringleader at the centre of the gang who plagued Luton's roads before fleeing the country, instead of owning up to his crimes, leaving his other gang members to take the fall. His manipulative nature also meant he didn't think twice before taking advantage of his business connections in order to expand his scam and maximise his profits.'
ERSOU detective sergeant Kelly Gray, added, 'This was an incredibly lengthy investigation into this organised crime group who were operating a complex and high end fraud, and its thanks to the hard work and commitment of our officers, alongside our partner agencies that we've reached this successful conclusion.
'Not only were these individuals scamming insurance companies out of thousands of pounds, more importantly they were putting the lives of innocent motorists at risk on a regular basis by causing these collisions.
'We're really pleased that these offenders have now been brought to justice, and we hope that the sentences handed out send a stark lesson to others. We're committed to clamping down on fraudsters such as these and proving that crime never does pay.'