Fraudulent insurance claims are on the rise and in many cases, career criminals are turning to this form of felony as a major source of illegal income. Over the years there have been some very high profile instances of uncovered frauds and here are six of the most spectacular to hit the headlines.
1. Lord Brocket
In the mid 1990's, Lord Brocket was facing debts that were climbing up to £16 million. A collector of vintage cars, he filed a claim for three missing Ferraris and a Maserati which were valued at around £4.3 million but in reality the cars had been broken up and buried around his Brocket Hall estate in Hertfordshire.
The facts were literally uncovered and Brocket served half of a five year sentence before achieving a level of celebrity notoriety by appearing on reality shows in the UK. If you head over to his official website, the story is that the theft claim was withdrawn and as such, would have only been recorded as a 'misdemeanour' in some countries.
2. Rabbi Sholam Weiss
Whether you term Lord Brocket's fraud as a misdemeanour or not, the extent of his deception pales somewhat against the work of American businessman Sholam Weiss.
In 2000, Weiss was convicted and issued with a prison sentence totalling 845 years for his role as the head of a crime syndicate responsible for a scam that cost $450 million. The fraud itself had begun in the early 1990's before Weiss stepped in and took control in 1993. From systematic looting of the National Heritage Life Insurance Company, the gang purchased worthless stocks and mortgages that were subsequently laundered before ending up in Weiss' accounts.
On the scale of interesting scams, it's not quite as fascinating as burying classic cars around a country estate but at the time it was the largest insurance fraud ever uncovered.
3. John and Anne Darwin
Subsequently dubbed as 'canoe man', John Darwin became famous for all the wrong reasons in 2007. Darwin's wife was paid £680,000 in life insurance claims after he disappeared in an apparent canoeing accident back in 2002. Crippled by debt, the couple realised that their obligations would be wiped out if he faked his own death.
Upon payment, Darwin lived rough for a while but then spent some considerable time outside of his native UK and he and his wife began to live the high life. In 2007 however he turned himself in to British police claiming that he had no recollection of what happened in the last five years.
Subsequently the authorities were happy to jog his memory by showing Darwin pictures of himself and his wife buying property in Panama. The couple were promptly jailed.
4. Clayton and Molly Daniels
Although it didn't deter the insurers in the John Darwin case, one of the issues with faking your own death is in the lack of a body. This was a problem tackled in a creative way by Texans Clayton and Molly Daniels in 2005 who proceeded to dig up a corpse from a local cemetery and place it in their burning car. Clayton would then disappear, Molly would collect $110,000 and he would somehow re-appear as her new boyfriend. Really.
In truth, their endeavours were very elaborate as she researched into how to burn a body effectively and sought tips on defrauding insurers. There was one gaping flaw in their plan however - the body was that of an 81 year old woman and DNA testing was only really necessary to confirm what the police already knew.
5. Charles Ingram
On the scale of failed insurance claims, Ingram's falls right to the bottom but his name is worthy of inclusion as the man who was found guilty of trying to cheat his way to the top prize in the UK version of 'Who Wants to be a Millionaire'.
Some would suggest that he was a master of serial buffoonery because at a later date, Ingram's family home was burgled but due to his failure to disclose previous incidents, his claim for £30,000 was refused.
6. Jason Sheedy
Possibly the worst art insurance fraudster in the world ever, Sheedy made a $275,000 claim for valuable pieces by Rembrandt and Salvador Dali amongst others in 2007. Sheedy was paid out but then proceeded to break the fraudsters' golden rule - he attempted to sell the pieces again.
The artwork had merely been pawned and when it appeared at a major auction house some time later with his name listed as the owner and vendor, the magic of the insurance database uncovered the deception.
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