Winnipeg, Manitoba — January 6, 2014
Manitoba Public Insurance (MPI) has released its annual list of Top Five Frauds, highlighted by the use of a video camera on a locomotive which conclusively proved the identity of the driver of a car which crashed into the train.
Fraudulent and suspicious claims are handled by MPIâ€™s Special Investigation Unit (SIU). According to a statement from MPI, the efforts of this special unit resulted in fraud savings last year of more than $8 million for Manitoba auto insurance rate payers. The SIU will investigate about 3,000 claims yearly. Anyone knowing someone who is involved in auto insurance fraud is encouraged to call the MPI TIPS line at 204-985-8477 or toll-free 1-877-985-8477. All calls are anonymous.
1. Candid Camera
A Winnipeg man was severely injured after the vehicle he was in collided with a moving train. There was also a fatality in the vehicle. The injured man, whose blood-alcohol levels were double the legal limit, told MPI officials and police that he was a passenger and his deceased friend was driving.
However, thanks to video evidence from the locomotive video camera, the injured man was clearly shown behind the steering wheel at the time of the collision. This evidence resulted in many of the manâ€™s Personal Injury Protection Plan benefits denied, based on the involvement of alcohol.
The combined savings to MPI premium payers was about $150,000.
2. Partners in Crime
After their vehicles collided with each other, two men opened collision claims with MPI. Each respective vehicle owner claimed they did not know the other driver. Both vehicles were high-end models and, due to extensive damage, subsequently written off.
Over the course of the investigation, it was confirmed that the two men were in fact business partners and friends. They had orchestrated a staged collision. They were later observed by law enforcement officials riding in the same vehicle during a business trip.
An independent collision analyst examined both vehicles and concluded only one of the involved vehicles was in motion at the time of collision. His report also stated the Jaguar was the bullet vehicle and the 2007 BMW was the target vehicle.
Both men pleaded guilty to Making a False Statement and were fined $2,000 and $1,700, respectively. The combined savings to MPI premium payers was nearly $50,000.
3. Story Didnâ€™t Float
A Winkler man was fined $2,500 after he was found guilty of trying to defraud MPI.
The 62-year-old claimed his 2007 Dodge Ram was stolen from outside his rural residence. The vehicle was recovered a day later, parked under a large water hose which was attached to the community water-fill station. The hose had been placed into the vehicleâ€™s passenger compartment, filling it with water. An investigation was then opened by SIU.
Court heard from an expert witness, who explained that the vehicle was equipped with an approved immobilizer, which had not been defeated. The vehicle owner’s story that someone had stolen his truck key was disbelieved by the judge.
4. Rolling into Jail
A kingpin at the centre of a massive and complex auto insurance fraud investigation Project Rollback was sent to jail for four years and ordered to pay $150,000 in restitution to MPI.
The Winnipeg man pleaded guilty to eight counts of fraud over $5,000 and commission of fraud for the benefit of a criminal organization. He had no prior record.
The fraudsters would make phony “sales” to each other, insure the vehicle at the increased price and then stage a series of accidents and thefts in order to cash in. More than 30 accused were arrested in 2009.
Project Rollback began in 2005 after MPI investigators learned that dozens of used cars with high mileage were being purchased in Ontario, brought to Manitoba and altered to reflect greatly reduced odometer readings, which increased their value.
5. Wrong Address
Despite living and owning a business in Kenora, a man decided to keep his Manitoba insurance because of the relatively high cost of insuring his vehicle in Ontario, approximately $12,000 compared to $1,400 in Manitoba. His decision would prove even more costly.
The 22-year-old was operating his vehicle when it lost control and rolled near Kenora. The vehicle, valued at $24,000, was a total loss. He told his MPI adjuster that he lived in rural Manitoba.
The SIU investigation confirmed the man was a resident of Kenora, owned a business and was paying income tax in Ontario. His claim was denied based on the overwhelming amount of evidence against him.