Travel agent director jailed for travel insurance fraud

Travel-agent-jailed-for-insurance-fraud

The man lied about his mother-in-law being ill to claim compensation for a family trip to Las Vegas

He was the director of a travel agency and stole his customer’s money but didn’t book their flights

In one instance, he stole £10,000 from a college and didn’t book flights for their educational trip for 32 students

On Friday 15th June 2018, a man was sentenced at Bristol Crown Court for abusing his position as a director of a travel agency, by making a false travel insurance claim worth £16,000. He also stole around £53,000 from his customers by pretending to book their flights and then diverting their payment into his personal bank account.

After an investigation by the City of London Police’s Insurance Fraud Enforcement Department (IFED), Simon Dinham, 31, of Weston Super Mare, pleaded guilty to three counts of Fraud by Abuse of Position and one count of Fraud by False Representation. He was sentenced to eight months in prison.

IFED first became aware of Dinham’s fraudulent activity after it was referred to the unit by the insurance company Direct Line Group (DLG). They suspected Dinham had made a false travel insurance claim for a family trip to Las Vegas. 

Fake holiday to Las Vegas

Dinham claimed that he, his wife and their two children were unable to go on their booked trip to Las Vegas as his mother-in-law had been admitted to hospital. To substantiate his claim, Dinham provided a Virgin Holidays booking invoice and cancellation invoice.

DLG contacted Virgin Holidays to verify the invoices and discovered that he’d actually booked the holiday directly through them and not through a travel agency, called Thomas William Travel, as stated in the invoices Dinham had submitted to DLG. Dinham was able to do this as he was the director of Thomas William Travel at the time the invoices were submitted.

Virgin Holidays also confirmed that they’d cancelled Dinham’s Las Vegas booking as he had not paid the balance of his holiday. He’d only ever paid a £700 deposit and not the further instalments.

On 15th June 2016, IFED officers carried out a search warrant at Dinham’s home address. He was arrested and was later interviewed under caution, where he made a full confession to the offence.

Man professes financial difficulties

In the interview, Dinham told IFED officers that he had been given a £5,000 contribution by his friend to book the original holiday for them and their wives. However, after he changed the date of the trip several times, his friend eventually asked for the money back.

To substantiate his claim, Dinham created false invoices for the claim he made to DLG. He also changed the passenger names on the paperwork to his children’s names instead of his friend and his wife as his travel insurance only covered immediate family members, which enabled him to make a larger claim.

Dinham admitted that he’d made the false claim because he was experiencing financial difficulties at the time. He stated that the parent travel company that provided him with the licence to trade, as well as his insurance, had terminated their contract with him after a disagreement over his pay.

He also stated that a branch of his company in the building of Weston College had closed, which he claimed was due to a misunderstanding with them over a foreign trip booking.

After their interview with Dinham, IFED officers decided to make further enquiries and contacted Weston College and the parent travel company.

It was discovered that instead of providing customers with the bank account details of the parent travel company for them to pay into, he’d diverted around £38,000 from holiday payments into his own personal account. This meant the customers were unable to go on the holiday they thought had been booked, while the parent travel company were financially disadvantaged as they had to compensate the customers.

Dinham’s fraudulent activity first came to light when it was discovered by Weston College that he’d stolen their money for an educational trip to Poland, totalling £10,000, and hadn’t booked the flights.

The staff then had to find 32 flights to Poland at short notice so the trip could still go ahead – this cost the college an extra £11,000 on top of the £10,000 that Dinham had diverted into his own account.

Man steals from ex-staff member

On another occasion, Dinham stole £5,000 from an ex-staff member who had given him the money to book her and her family a trip to Florida. She enquired with the parent travel company whether the trip had been booked, but they discovered it hadn’t and had to buy her new flights at their expense.

Following IFED’s additional investigation into Dinham’s involvement with Weston College and his parent travel company, he attended Bridgewater Police Station to be voluntarily interviewed for a second time.

City of London Police Detective Constable Katy Goulding, who led the Insurance Fraud Enforcement Department's investigation, said:

“Dinham showed he cared very little for other people, as he was happy to abuse his position as director of his travel agency to not only steal their money, but also ruin their holidays. He also wasn’t fazed by using his family’s names to commit his crimes. Nor did he mind ripping off students who tend to have a very limited income.

“With the help of Direct Line Group and staff at Weston College, our Insurance Fraud Enforcement Department (IFED) were able to uncover the multiple crimes Dinham committed, which showed both the extent of his greed and also his willingness to deceive.”

Mike Brown, Head of Counter Fraud Intelligence at Direct Line Group, said:

“Dinham attempted to deceive Direct Line Group in order to obtain over £16,000, by producing falsified booking and cancellation invoices for his holiday to Las Vegas.”

"During this investigation the true extent to Mr Dinham’s fraudulent operations were discovered. Mr Dinham’s sentence should serve as a stark warning to those who seek to commit insurance fraud in the future.”