Sterling Insurance, the high net worth and commercial SME specialist, has successfully pursued a fraudulent customer who staged the theft of expensive camera equipment through the courts, resulting in a custodial sentence handed down on Friday.
Diane Thompson, from London, was sentenced to two years imprisonment by a judge at Wood Green Crown Court. Despite pleading not guilty, a jury unanimously found Thompson guilty of theft in just nine minutes.
The case follows an investigation by Sterling Insurance and specialist investigators I-COG Claims Management, as part of Sterling’s ongoing efforts to combat insurance fraud.
In 2013, Ms Thompson hired a Red Epic Camera and other professional camera equipment, valued at £150,000, claiming that she was filming a music video for a pop group named Kalidah’s Dream. She took a semi-professional insurance policy stating she was a Music Video Film Maker.
She subsequently informed insurers that she had been robbed in a park by three men who had followed her back to her rented VW Up! and removed all boxes and equipment.
The claim was one of a spate of high value professional camera claims to be received by the insurer and the case was immediately referred to I-COG for investigation.
Early intelligence enquiries could not establish any link with the film industry and established that Thompson was in financial distress and being pursued by debt collectors.
Detailed investigations later established that Thompson was not involved with the film industry but was in fact on benefits and unemployed. She had also received a large unexplained payment into her bank account after the hire period.
ANPR cameras confirmed that her vehicle was not in the area of the alleged theft and it was also established that it was not possible to fit the specialist camera boxes into a VW Up!
Details of the stolen equipment were placed onto an intelligence website used by the media industry and in response, a producer in Italy called the Metropolitan Police to state that they had located the Red Epic Camera in Italy a week later. The camera was subsequently tracked back to the UK and later seized by police.
Thompson failed to attend police bail in December 2013 and several later trial dates. In late June the Met Police spotted Thompson on a street in London and she was immediately arrested and remanded to Holloway Prison.
Commenting on the case, Garry Simmons, Sterling’s Head of Property & Liability Claims, said: “I am very pleased with the sentence handed down in this case. Whilst we get no pleasure out of sending customers to prison, these are excellent results for our claims team who have worked incredibly hard during the initial investigations and also the subsequent liaison with the MET to get these cases prepared for trial. It also sends out a clear message of the significant consequences of committing insurance fraud to anyone thinking of submitting a false claim. Protecting honest customers is crucial and I make no apology for Sterling’s zero tolerance approach to insurance fraud.”
I-COG’s Managing Director Tara Shelton said: “It is utterly imperative that we work closely with insurers when ensuring fraudulent claims are dealt with reasonably, swiftly and with complete justice. Having close police relationships are also vital, so that we in the industry can oversee criminal investigations in line with how insurance actually works, and ensure the right result is reached for the right reasons. Teamwork is what creates such results as these, and I am utterly delighted that the commitment, hard work and integrity shown during this investigation has been acknowledged in the form of a 2 year imprisonment being handed down to Ms Thompson.”
About Sterling Insurance
Sterling Insurance is a UK subsidiary of leading French mutual insurance group Covéa, who are number 1 for property and liability insurance in France and served over 11.3 million policyholders, with earned premiums of €16.5bn in 2014.
Sterling Insurance provides a diverse range of niche insurance products including: Mid and High Net Worth Household; SME Commercial; Short term income Protection; Personal Accident; and Life from its regional offices around the UK. It also provides insurance administration and technology services to some of the country’s largest financial institutions. Its 2014 turnover was 151 million GBP and it has 387 employees, with the majority based at its offices in West Malling, Kent.