After four years of investigating, one of the biggest ever fraud scams in the UK has finally come to an end. In total, Gwent Police has prosecuted 158 people for their roles in faking car crashes and making false insurance claims across south Wales.
It all centred on a repair garage called Easifix which had also been known as St David’s Crash Repair in Pengam, Blackwood. Over the course of nearly two and a half years, the Yandell family, who ran it, staged accidents and exaggerated claims in an attempt to fraudulently claim thousands of pounds from multiple insurers and roped in relatives and friends.
Investigators uncovered evidence that the group were purposefully crashing vehicles into each other in order to submit exaggerated and falsified claims in an attempt to increase pay-outs for vehicle damage and personal injury.
A huge probe, known as Operation Dino, was launched by the Insurance Fraud Bureau and Gwent Police. It was one of the largest inquiries into car insurance fraud in the UK.
Due to the number of people involved, a series of individual trials were held, with the original case concluding in 2015, when 81 people were prosecuted for roles in staging accidents involving 57 different vehicles. Since then, there have been further court cases...
In the first wave of prosecutions, the 81 fraudsters received a total of 601 months in jail.
The second phase ended in June 2018, and covered additional insurance claims linked to the original investigation, resulting in 96 convictions for 77 defendants.
How did they do it?
Police uncovered evidence that the group were purposefully crashing vehicles into each other in order to submit exaggerated and falsified claims in an attempt to increase pay-outs for vehicle damage and personal injury. They also made money from insurance companies by claiming they had hired out courtesy cars; a number of claims were made to insurance companies and they also hired courtesy cars - for which they were reimbursed.
In one incident, Rachel Yandell apparently had a crash in May 2011, and was given a courtesy car by Easifix. The business was reimbursed for the hire of that car, getting £5,700, but records showed it was also hired to a second driver, for which the business got £800. At that time, CCTV showed that car having to be pushed around the yard and didn't even start. However, having not had the original crash, "she didn't need another car in the first place".
In another count, the prosecution say an innocent woman was found at fault for an incident in the car park of Morrison’s in Blackwood. The independent witness who claimed to see the incident was later caught on CCTV at Easifix talking to the driver who had reversed into the innocent victim. Video showed cars arriving at the garage days after alleged incidents with no damage. Days later, they are seen again but with damage. CCTV was found which showed a Landrover being driven at a fork lift truck parked in the grounds of Easifix. It was then reversed and driven at the fork lift again where it collides for a second time. You can watch that footage in the video at the top of this story. Byron and Peter Yandell “deliberately” deployed the airbags manually “to make it appear as though it has been in a genuine collision”.
What impact has it had?
Senior Investigating Officer at Gwent Police, Steve Maloney said: "Operation Dino was investigated by a small team of dedicated investigators who had to manage a large number of individuals responsible for a very complex fraud.
“The investigation has brought people to justice for their criminal activity but has also assisted our partners in the insurance industry to prevent future offences of this nature going undetected.
"Crash for cash scams have a real impact on society and cost the honest policy holders almost £350 million each year.”
Jason Potter, IFB’s Head of Investigations, said: “This is a continuation of one of the largest and longest investigations that IFB has been involved in and we’re extremely pleased that the guilty parties in this major scam were pursued for their crimes following a successful collaboration with Gwent Police and our insurer members.
“Crash for cash in any form is an intolerable crime and the fraudulent claims that go along with it ultimately cost honest premium paying motorists money.
"What may have seemed to the fraudsters like a quick way to make money has ultimately resulted in a total of 158 guilty verdicts across both phases of the investigation.
"Let this be a message to anyone considering taking part in this type of illicit activity – you will be caught and you will be prosecuted.”
Source: Wales Online