August 3, 2006 – On August 3, 2006, ICBC filed a lawsuit in B.C. Supreme Court against 22 defendants who were allegedly involved in fraudulent insurance claims involving motor vehicle thefts. According to the Statement of Claim, between June 1, 2001 and November 13, 2004, the 22 defendants were directly or indirectly involved in 25 vehicle theft claims. It is alleged that several of the defendants voluntarily gave up their vehicles, and then reported them stolen to ICBC. ICBC alleges that the vehicles were dismantled, rebuilt and/or disguised with false Vehicle Identification Numbers (VINs) in order to resell them. ICBC is seeking to recover $553,495.09 for claims costs already paid out, as well as investigative and legal costs and punitive damages.
“ICBC has a zero tolerance policy when it comes to fraud,” said Mark Withenshaw, ICBC vice president of Loss Management. “We will not sit back and simply pass the cost of fraud onto our customers.”
The amounts ICBC paid out for individual theft claims ranged from $6,000 to $59,000. The vehicles involved in the alleged scheme vary from early and late model cars, to late model trucks and SUVs. The alleged fraudsters reside primarily in Surrey and Langley, but some as far away as Dawson City, Yukon.
The majority of the fraudulent claims described in the Statement of Claim are alleged to involve: Jozsef Suska of Dawson City, Yukon; Laszlo Balogh of Coquitlam, B.C.; Gyula Vaczi of New Westminster, B.C.; Laszlo Majorani of Surrey, B.C.; Michele Palma of Dawson City, Yukon; and/ or Andras Takacs of Surrey, B.C.
ICBC exposed the alleged frauds while investigating a suspected staged car crash that took place in October 2002. It is alleged in this lawsuit that not only are the insurance claims resulting from the suspected staged crash fraudulent, but also that the claimants involved in the suspected staged crash were also involved in a number of the fraudulent stolen vehicle claims.
Many of the allegedly stolen vehicles and vehicle parts are said to have been located on properties in Surrey in February 2005 by members of the Integrated Municipal Provincial Auto Crime Team (IMPACT).
In addition to the identification of the stolen property, ICBC’s statement of claim links the defendants to the alleged stolen vehicle scheme based on similarities between the stolen vehicle claims and relationships between the various defendants. The circumstances of each of the 25 related incidents are set out in greater detail in the court documents filed by ICBC. The allegations in the Statement of Claim have not been proven in court.
“ICBC invests more in fraud prevention and investigation than most property and casualty insurance companies in Canada. We combat fraud to deter others and to recover fraudulent payments,” said Withenshaw.
B.C. motorists saved more than $73 million in 2005 thanks to ICBC anti-fraud programs. Savings are based on the estimated value of fraudulent claims which were denied, money recovered and savings generated through fraud prevention. In 2005, ICBC’s anti-fraud program resulted in 175 criminal charges against 94 people. ICBC’s Fraud Prevention and Investigation department conducted over 3300 investigations during the year.
Anyone with information on a suspicious, exaggerated or fraudulent claim is encouraged to phone 604-661-6844 or 1-800-661-6844.