Ex-Willis broker sentenced 5 years in multi million pound fraud

Two men have been sentenced at Southwark Crown Court to a total of nine years in prison after they committed $2,300,000 worth of fraud over a ten year period. 

Simon Higginson, 52 and Lee Willis, 56, both from Guildford were sentenced today to five years and four years respectively in prison. 

Higginson, a former employee of insurance brokers Willis Group Ltd (now Willis Towers Watson), used his position as a senior broker to defraud the company, working with Lee Willis to set-up companies which allowed them to claim commission in marine insurance deals. 

In 2005 Lee Willis, with the assistance of Simon Higginson, set up ‘Enargee Consulting Limited’ which he was the sole director of. Between 2005 and 2009 the company received $1,300,000 in commissions and throughout this time Willis Group Ltd believed that the third party introducer was owned and controlled by an individual that had worked for a company Willis Group Ltd had done business with in the US. 

However it was later revealed that this individual had no idea of the company’s existence nor any involvement in the company. Higginson later provided a witness statement to a civil proceeding which confirmed that he was behind the company and had orchestrated the whole thing with Lee Willis. When the fraud came to light in 2013 Higginson was dismissed from his role at Willis Group Ltd and the case was referred to the City of London Police for investigation. 

It then transpired that in 2003 Higginson and Willis created a company called ‘Brokermarine’, which was set-up as a third party introducer to Willis Group Limited based in Ecuador, and was said to be directed by a man local to the area. However the company did not actually exist and the director was simply a named figure head. 

Brokermarine received $1,000,000 in commission money during the ten years that Higginson worked at Willis Group Ltd, $91,432 of which was given to the figurehead director while the vast majority of the money was paid to Simon Higginson and Lee Willis. When Enargee Consulting Limited closed its business account in 2009 the closing balance of $119,330 was transferred to the Brokermarine bank account, where the money was later extracted by both Willis and Higginson. 

The investigation uncovered that a number of documents purportedly signed by the directors of Brokermarine and Enargee Consulting Ltd did not matched those on official documents of the individuals and were in fact forged. 

E-mail addresses used by the company also appeared to be registered in the UK with a postcode near to the address of Willis and Higginson’s home and the IP address used to log into the account had links to their home address. 

Between 2003- 2013 Higginson did everything he could to legitimise the company; doctoring emails he received from members of the industry to make them seem like they were endorsing Brokermarine and Enargee Consulting Ltd and their work. 

Detective Constable Chris Glover, who has led the investigation for the City of London Police said:

“Today’s sentence shows that exploiting your position within a company in order to commit fraud will never have beneficial results. Higginson took liberties within his role at Willis Group Ltd that he had no right to do. He involved his friend who was also completely swept along by greed and was fully aware of the fraud that he was committing. 

“They both had no problem falsely providing documents in the names of individuals or doctoring company e-mails to help serve their own financial ends and they were completely shameless in doing so. 

“The City of London Police will do everything it can to prevent fraud of this kind and today’s case shows that they will leave no stone unturned in order to do so.”

The City of London Police Fraud Squad takes on many of the UK’s most complex and significant fraud investigations. It includes units dedicated to combating money laundering and recovering the proceeds of crime. 

The City of London Police is also home to Action Fraud (National Fraud Reporting Centre) and the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau, which together records and analyses thousands of reports of fraud each week. Further to this it hosts the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) and the Insurance Fraud Enforcement Department (IFED).