Vet finance officer convicted after pocketing £37,000 in fraudulent pet claims


A finance officer at a veterinary practice, who made over £37,000 in fraudulent pet insurance claims by editing invoices obtained from her employer, has been sentenced.

Helen Pearse, 33, Northumberland, took out pet insurance policies with six insurers and made a total of 18 fraudulent claims against them over four years. In most cases, she made up the names and breeds of the animals that she had taken out the policies for.

Pearse then altered invoices for medical treatment that the practice had sent to genuine clients so that they appeared to have been issued to her, and submitted them to the insurers to evidence her claims.

She pleaded guilty to six counts of fraud by abuse of position at South East Northumberland Magistrates Court on 13 April 2023 following a referral made to the City of London Police’s Insurance Fraud Enforcement Department (IFED). She was sentenced to 20 months imprisonment, suspended for 18 months, at Newcastle Crown Court on 11 May 2023, and will be subject to probation requirements and supervision for the duration of her sentence.

Detective Constable Chris Jones, from the Insurance Fraud Enforcement Department (IFED) at City of London Police, said:

“Pearse took advantage of the access she had to client invoices as part of her job in order to line her own pockets. After her actions first came to light, we identified that she had been making fraudulent claims since 2018, motivated by her greed to earn more money.

“Submitting documents that you have forged or edited as evidence to your insurer is fraud and, unfortunately for Pearse, she will now have to face the consequence of having a criminal record.”

Pearse took out a pet insurance policy with an insurer for fictitious dogs Ripple, a German Wirehaired Pointer, and Pippa, a small mongrel, on 18 August 2021.

She registered a claim for medical treatment to Pippa on 15 October and received £3,712 from the insurer after she provided an invoice and medical notes from the practice as evidence. Pearse submitted a further claim for Pippa on 26 October and received £3,108.

On 11 April 2022, Pearse registered a claim worth £3,005 for medical treatment to Ripple. The insurer contacted the veterinary practice to enquire about the treatment, but staff were unable to find any record of it. Initial enquiries revealed that Pearse had made the claim, but had not registered Ripple at the practice.

In the week after the false claims were uncovered, the insurer received correspondence from Pearse, who offered to repay the claims and stated that “these have been paid out incorrectly due to my error”.

The case was referred to IFED on 20 May 2022. Officers from the unit executed a search warrant at Pearse’s property on 14 September, and worked with the Insurance Fraud Bureau (IFB) and insurers, including Allianz, to identify other fraudulent claims she had made.

It was discovered that Pearse had made fraudulent claims for dogs Ciara and Luke, cats Percy and Piper, and rabbits Stewart and Ross with five other insurers from January 2018 onwards. With the exception of Piper, the animals that Pearse submitted claims for did not exist.

The practice confirmed that the documents Pearse had sent to the insurers did not represent genuine treatments that that had taken place.

During her police interview, Pearse admitted that she had used her position at the practice to access and edit genuine invoices and medical notes. She stated that she owned Piper the cat, but made three false claims for medical treatment to her.

Jon Radford, Head of Intelligence, Investigations and Data Services at the Insurance Fraud Bureau (IFB), said:

"It's alarming that someone who works at a veterinary practice and is trusted to take care of people's pets orchestrated fraud of this scale. We're pleased to have collaborated with IFED and our member Allianz in this investigation to see justice served.”

Pearse has since paid back the money she received from four of the insurers. A confiscation order, worth £15,024.61, has been granted to cover the money owed to the remaining insurers and must be repaid within 12 months.