Court awards ICBC approximately $280,500 in auto-theft ring

Maple Ridge auto-theft ring participants pay the price

2004, November 8 � A jury has awarded ICBC approximately $280,500 as the result of a civil action brought forward in January 2003 against a number of people involved in an auto-theft ring based in Maple Ridge.

The jury awarded ICBC special damages of approximately $191,000, general damages of $19,500 and awarded punitive damages against six defendants totaling $70,000. The majority of the damages were awarded against local residents Allan Morin, Russell Grant, Joseph Johnston, Carla Supeene, Allison Deblois and Aaron Deblois. ICBC will also be seeking recovery of its legal costs.

�This case sends a strong message to anyone involved in auto theft,� said Mark Withenshaw, ICBC vice president of loss management. �ICBC has a zero tolerance policy on auto theft and fraud and we are pleased that those who participate in auto theft or attempt to defraud our policyholders are being held accountable.�

The case dates back to a 2001 investigation, nicknamed �Berta� by the former provincial Auto Theft Task Force (ATTF). As the result of their investigation, in June 2001 the ATTF executed numerous search warrants in BC, primarily in the Maple Ridge and Mission areas.

It was found that the auto theft ringleaders legally purchased �junkers� and then stole similar vehicles of greater value and fraudulently swapped the Vehicle Identification Numbers so the vehicles could be registered. Most of the vehicles were then sold and circulated among a close circle of friends.

To date ICBC has also received significant out-of-court settlements from a number of other defendants in this case.

This is the second substantial jury award in favour of ICBC related to auto theft within the last year. In December 2003 a jury awarded ICBC $4.5 million in a civil lawsuit against two brothers who operated a chop shop in Mission.

�We are taking a serious stand on auto theft activity that has an impact on our customers,� said Withenshaw. �It is the honest person who usually pays the price in the form of higher insurance premiums when it comes to auto theft and fraud.�

Anyone with information on a suspicious, exaggerated or fraudulent claim is encouraged to phone the ICBC Tip Line at 604-661-6844.