A organised crime gang from North London have been jailed for defrauding insurers out of £1 million using four bars and one restaurant, including one in Sleaford.
The gang, who were sentenced to a collective 14 years in prison, targeted 14 insurers during a four year nationwide commercial property fraud.
It was the City of London Police’s Insurance Fraud Enforcement Department’s (IFED) biggest case of commercial property fraud.
The gang stole £1million from insurers by making fraudulent claims of property damage and loss of earnings at various bars and restaurants across England.
They avoided detection by ensuring a loss adjustor didn’t attend the same venue twice. The gang members attempted to distance themselves from the fraud by changing their names by Deed Poll.
Sleaford wine bar
IFED first became aware of the gang’s fraudulent activity after a referral from Zurich. They were suspicious of a claim they received for property damage and business interruption at a wine bar in Sleaford caused by a burst water pipe.
Fraud investigators at Zurich examined the claim further and established that the wine bar didn’t actually hold an alcohol licence. It also wasn’t open for trade prior to the claim, so the case was then referred onto IFED to investigate.
After confirming that the claim against Zurich was fraudulent, IFED went onto uncover several other instances of fraud carried out by the gang in the preceding years.
The gang had been operating nationally and had targeted a total of 14 different insurers using the same tactic, which lead to the IFED investigation on a scale that had never been before attempted within the unit or the wider insurance industry.
The lead officer in the case exposed several members of the gang early on in the investigation by obtaining their fingerprints through a forensic examination at the wine bar in Lincolnshire, whose identity will not be disclosed by police. It didn’t feature in the initial referral from Zurich.
The fraud offences
Between December 2012 and April 2016 the gang identified four bars and one restaurant across England, which they used one by one to facilitate their fraud.
After leasing each of the properties using a shell company they proceeded to incept a total of 26 commercial property policies, each with a different insurer, before making a fraudulent claim on each policy.
An escape of water from a burst pipe caused deliberately by the gang was the subject of each of the claims. The burst led to significant damage to the property and subsequent loss of earnings while the premises stopped trading.
A loss adjuster would then attend the premises to check the validity of the claim, but in reality the venue was never open for trade.
False leases and documents were supplied to loss adjustors by gang to show that a legitimate business was in operation over a two year period prior to the claim.
A total of 15 policies were subject to successful claims with £944,206 being paid out, which was then laundered through various bank accounts held by gang members before being withdrawn in cash.
Kashif Bhatti, 35, of Wightman Road, Harringay, London, was sentenced to two years in prison.
Ramone Carty, 36, of Janson Close, Neasden, London, was sentenced to three years in prison.
Nyron Hughes, 35, of Cherrydown Avenue, Chingford, London, was sentenced to four years in prison.
Tarquinn Orgill, 34, of Cherrydown Avenue, Chingford, London, was sentenced to five years in prison.
Jurelle Hayles, 30, of Huntingdon Road, Edmonton, London, was sentenced to 20 months in prison, suspended for two years and 300 hours unpaid work.
In February 2016, IFED planned a London-based raid to carry out a simultaneous execution of warrants and arrests.
During the operation, Hughes, Orgill and Hayles were all arrested. Bhatti and Carty were voluntary interviewed a few days afterwards.
In addition to the money the gang stole from insurers, Hughes, Bhatti and Hayles also pleaded guilty to defrauding American Express to the value of £62,497.
They fraudulently obtained gold business accounts and misused the cards for high value transactions.
IFED’s investigation revealed that Hughes & Orgill, who are cousins, were the main orchestrators behind the fraud and were involved in all of the claims made against each property. The other suspects were brought into the fraud to help front the policies and claims.
Confiscation proceedings will now be started under the Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA) to recover any criminal benefit gained from the gang’s fraudulent activity.