A 51-year-old former insurance consultant has been jailed for his part in organising six fraudulent car accidents at the centre of a garda investigation code-named Operation Nascar.
Tommy Maher, of Scarteen, Newmarket, Co Cork was sentenced to three years in prison with the last year suspended.
Judge Seán Ó Donnabháin said the ultimate victim is “Sean Citizen.”
He said the amount lost to the insurance companies is quite significant and it is unlikely the monies will ever be repaid. Unfortunately the people who pay are the innocent public, he added.
Maher pleaded guilty at Cork Circuit Criminal Court to making false reports of accidents to gardaí and making fraudulent claims amounting to more than €200,000.
The court was told there were staged accidents at Redbarn Cross in Youghal on 20 April 2011, at Clash West in Leamlara on 18 June 2011, and at Model Farm Road in Cork city on 17 February 2011.
There were also staged accidents at Monastery Hill, Rochestown, on 6 December 2011, Carrigane, Mitchelstown, on 28 August 2012, and at Clyda Bridge, Mallow, on 26 September 2012.
The same modus operandi was used in each case.
Eight or nine people met before an accident; travelled to the scene in two cars; everyone got out except the driver of one car who crashed into an empty car in front.
The passengers then jumped in and calls were made to gardaí and the ambulance service and complaints of soft tissue injuries such as whiplash were reported to the emergency services who arrived at the scene.
This was followed up by claims against insurance companies including Axa, Aviva and Quinn (Liberty).
As soon as the insurers agreed to settle, rather than having the cases contested in court, the passengers were advised to take what was offered and pass it on to the organisers who would give them a percentage of the payment.
Defence barrister Donal O’Sullivan said his client was not saying he was a foot soldier in the crimes. He admitted playing a role as an organiser but did so with others who also organised the crimes.
Judge Ó Donnabháin said he had no option but to impose a custodial sentence as Maher was deeply and continuously involved.
However, given that if these cases went on, they would be long, complex and particularly difficult to prove, he was entitled to a significant deduction for his admission of guilt.
He noted that Maher had expressed considerable remorse and had put “meat on that bone by providing €25,000 by way of compensation.”
Speaking afterwards, Head of Fraud at Aviva General Insurance Robert Smyth said the company has a duty to its customers to fight fraud relentlessly and it will continue to collaborate with the gardaí in tackling this problem.
He said the company estimates fraudulent claims cost customers at least €50 per private motor insurance policy.