A 33-year-old courier from Epsom sentenced after he admitted to setting up over 100 fraudulent car insurance policies for his unsuspecting ‘customers’ has been ordered to pay £17,000 back or spend nine months in jail after a confiscation hearing at Guildford Crown Court.
Renan Gomes was sentenced at Guildford Crown Court on Friday 20th May to 16 months’ imprisonment (suspended for two years) and ordered to carry out 200 hours of unpaid work, having previously pleaded guilty to fraud by false representation and carrying out a regulated activity (insurance broking) when not an authorised person.
Gomes has three months in which to repay the money.
Between November 2013 and March 2015, Gomes set himself up as an unauthorised insurance broker, and took out polices on behalf of his customers who thought they were getting good deals on their car insurance. In fact, Gomes was registering false details to get lower premiums and was leaving his customers completely uncovered.
Through local adverts and word of mouth, Gomes set up 133 fraudulent policies on behalf of his customers – many of whom were from the Portuguese community living in and around the Epsom and Surrey area. The fraud came to light after Liberty Insurance spotted the high number of policies being set up using the same banks accounts – all of which belonged to Gomes.
The details were passed to IFED in February 2015 and detectives quickly linked 79 policies that Gomes had set up with Liberty. He was arrested at his home address in March 2015 and after further enquiries, officers discovered that Gomes was opening the policies and providing false home addresses or forged no claims certificates to get his clients cheaper premiums than they were entitled to.
Financial enquiries showed that he was pocketing around £70-£100 in fees from his unsuspecting customers for every policy he opened, making around £10,000 in total. Detectives also found 133 payments from his accounts to insurers and losses to Liberty Insurance were estimated to total £79,000.
Detective Constable Eva Woods, from the Insurance Fraud Enforcement Department, who investigated the case said: “Gomes set himself up as an unauthorised insurance broker and sold policies that were absolutely worthless to people who often didn’t speak English. The warning here is if you get yourself insurance through an unlicensed broker like Gomes, then the likelihood is that you’ll be left without valid cover. “
You could end up having to foot a hefty bill yourself should you have an accident and you could also have your car seized by police if it’s on the road without valid insurance. Anyone looking for cheap car insurance deals from an insurance broker should make sure that broker is authorised with the FCA (Financial Conduct Authority).”
Speaking on behalf of Liberty Insurance, Director of Personal Lines Deirdre Ashe said: “We welcome this successful prosecution and recognise the significant efforts made by our Special Investigation Unit, working in collaboration with the Insurance Fraud Enforcement Department.
“This sentence should send a clear message; we’re committed to aggressively tackle all forms of insurance fraud and will thoroughly investigate all aspects of policy and claims suspicions; and should you commit fraud it is increasingly likely that you will be caught and prosecuted. Insurance fraud is a serious issue for the industry; we will continue to invest in the prevention and detection of fraud to protect our genuine customers and keep premiums affordable."
Ben Fletcher, Director of the Insurance Fraud Bureau (IFB), said: “The IFB referred the case to IFED after a detailed investigation, working closely with Liberty Insurance, identified Gomes’ role as a ghost broker as we could evidence that he was buying policies for people and providing fake details to reduce the cost of these policies. This was a calculated crime which left people out of pocket and a much bigger number of road users unwittingly exposed to the negative impact of driving without insurance.
“This has been another successful prosecution in the fight against insurance fraud and demonstrates how the insurance industry and law enforcement agencies work effectively together to detect and prosecute fraudsters. The message to insurance fraudsters is simple – the risk of being caught and prosecuted is very real.”