Four Preston legal workers have been caged over a conspiracy to defraud insurance companies.
Solicitor Aadiel Salya, 28, of Church Brow, Walton-le-Dale, Preston, was jailed for two years and disqualified from acting as a director for seven years after he was found guilty of the conspiracy.
Former Farleys solicitor Nadir Suleman, 30, of Clement Road, Fulwood, Preston, and delivery driver Arif Patel, 32, of Highgate Avenue, Fulwood, who admitted the conspiracy, were given four years and 32 months respectively at Liverpool Crown Court.
Nadim Iqbal, 27, of Greyfriars Avenue, Preston, a paralegal employed by Dylan Nair Solicitors, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud in a linked case and was jailed for 28 months.
His brother Wasim Iqbal, 27, of Manor Avenue, Preston, a trainee formerly employed by Eastway Solicitors and recruitment consultant Alex Butler, 28, of Parklands Drive, Preston, received 15 months each after being found guilty of the conspiracy. Butler was disqualified from being a director for seven years.
The case centred around the creation of false medical reports and invoices for car hire and storage to obtain payments using the names of at least 50 genuine victims of accidents, but victims who had never required or sought treatment, or hired cars.
Prosecuting, Robert Dudley revealed the whole investigation stemmed from a claim to NIG Insurance from Nadir Suleman in relation to damage to his wife, Samira Patel's Mini Cooper.
He said: " The Mini was at The Car Clinic in Great George Street in Preston to have a new starter motor fitted on 14 September 2012 when it slipped from the garage ramp falling about 6 feet onto the garage floor landing on its offside – the Mini was written off.
"He processed his wife’s claim himself, by-passing Farleys usual procedures in relation to files. As well as claiming the pre-accident value of his wife’s car of £4,050 as part of the claim, Suleman submitted to NIG a credit hire invoice from Matrix Car Hire in the sum of £7,164.13 for a replacement Mini Cooper which he said he had used for 79 days from 15 September to 3 December 2012 and a claim for solicitors’ costs amounting to a further £4,332.34.
"NIG went on to conduct further enquiries. The address shown on the Matrix invoice was for an address in North Finchley, London that was a mail forwarding company which had no knowledge of Matrix Car Hire, and the Mini Cooper Matrix had purported to hire to Suleman had been on sale on the forecourt of Cooper Sevenoaks in Kent over the relevant period until it had been sold to a private purchaser on December 2, 2012 on which date there was an ANPR hit for it on the M25.
"Suleman had provided an address at a unit in Blackburn which he said he had collected the replacement Mini from and delivered it back to – no such address was found to exist. NIG made a report to the police of fraud by false representation."
As the probe continued, other defendants and frauds came to light including a firm called Replacemycar Ltd - linked to Aadiel Salya. Prosecutors say it was created as a "vehicle of fraud".
The court heard genuine vehicles were provided to people whose own vehicles had been damaged in genuine road traffic accidents, but false documents were created specifically to obtain fictional and/or inflated car hire and storage costs in insurance claims.
Salya, who had worked in a commercial property team, had acted alongside Nadir Suleman and Arif Patel.
Liverpool Crown Court previously heard when a phone seized from Nadir Suleman was examined there were numerous messages to Aadiel Salya's mobile phone which were clearly about Replacemycar, the size of the available fleet, insurance certificates for their cars, and referral fees.
"When Aadiel Salya's home was searched officers found various incriminating documents along with letters on his phone from Replacemycar to HMRC.
Head of the City of London Police’s Insurance Fraud Enforcement Department, Detective Inspector Oliver Little said: “This is a groundbreaking case for the Insurance Fraud Enforcement Department; we have been investigating these solicitors and their associates for a number of years, working tirelessly with the insurance industry, Lancashire Police and the solicitors firms involved to ensure that these men were finally brought to justice.
“These men abused their professional roles, betrayed their employers and exploited the insurance industry for their own monetary gain. Today they are facing the consequences of their greed and these sentences should help to deter other professionals from pursuing a criminal path”.
A representative of Farleys Solicitors said: “We would like to thank City of London Police for their painstaking work in bringing Mr Suleman and his co-conspirators to justice. As a Solicitor, Mr Suleman was required to conduct himself with integrity and to the highest professional standards. Instead, he conspired with others to embark on a complex fraud, letting down his clients, the good name of Farleys and the Solicitors profession.
“We have ensured that no client has suffered any financial loss as a result of his conduct which has been reported to the Solicitors Regulation Authority who will now take steps to remove him from the Solicitors Roll”.
James Dalton, Director of General Insurance Policy, Association of British Insurers, said: “This ruling shows that the industry will do whatever it takes to root out anyone who abuses their professional position to commit insurance fraud. The dishonesty of these solicitors and their associates tarnishes the reputation of those honest claimant lawyers. These sentences reflect the fact that never has the likelihood of receiving a custodial sentence and collecting a criminal record, that could destroy careers, been greater.”
Mike Brown Head of Counter Fraud Intelligence with NIG, said: "Insurance fraud is not a victimless crime. We are committed to working in partnership with enforcement agencies to detect, disrupt and prosecute those involved in this type of criminality. The sentences handed down today should serve as a stark warning to those that seek to commit insurance fraud."
The men will face a Proceeds of Crime Act hearing to seize their ill gotten gains on October 27.