TORONTO, March 5 – It’s awards season, so to recognize the worst performances by scam artists in 2006, Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) presents the first-annual Scam-ademy Awards. There’s no glitz, no glamour, and no red carpet. And the winners are, in fact, losers who tried to cheat Canadian insurance companies and their customers — and got caught.
According to Rick Dubin, Vice-President, Investigations, IBC, insurance fraud and auto theft are serious and costly crimes that make victims of us all. “Criminal greed costs honest Canadian policyholders about $3 billion a year,” says Dubin. “But sometimes, fraud artists deliver performances that are so brazen and so dumb that they warrant some kind of recognition.”
The Fraudster Award for Worst Picture goes to “Around the World in 80 Cars,” an epic scam that stretched from Canada to the Middle East. These audacious fraud artists were not only car thieves; they were identity thieves as well. They created a string of false identities and fake credit reports, and used them to lease over 80 high-end cars. The cars were then packed up and shipped to buyers in countries throughout the Middle East. After the cars had sailed away, the gang tried to report some of them stolen in an attempt to collect on the insurance as well. The trail of fake paperwork led to seven suspects. As the credits rolled, five men were facing charges, and arrest warrants had been issued for the other two.
Our next category is for the Worst Performance by Actors in Supporting Roles. And the Fraudster goes to “Same Time Next Week.” This cast of characters had a lot in common as they tried to cheat the system. They all appeared to be lousy drivers, they all drove rental cars and, most amazingly, they always crashed at the same time of day and the same day of the week. They did it once and then went on to produce 11 sequels. They all had the same plot. One car with two people in it hit another car with three or four in it. They all used the same paralegals and went to the same clinics for treatment as they tried to bilk insurers with false claims. But there was no happy ending for this cast. Insurers caught on. Claims denied.
In the Worst Documentary category, the Fraudster goes to “Your Pink Slip is Showing.” It turns out the “documents” in this documentary were forged. It’s the story of a rental-car operation that gave forged pink slips to its customers as proof of insurance. The boss was busted but then she changed the company’s name and tried the same thing again. This time, she got real pink slips for her fleet, but she didn’t pay the premiums, and kept using them even after the policy was cancelled for non-payment. This encore performance had a similar ending — the company has been shut down, and the case is in the hands of police. As for our star, she may soon be trading in pink for orange.
For the Worst Foreign Production, the Fraudster goes to “Lost and Found in Mexico” — the epic journey of a stray SUV. Two men got their hands on a Hummer that was stolen in Ontario, and then they high-tailed it to Mexico and acquired insurance from a Mexican insurer. One of the men reported to police in Cancun that it was stolen, and filed an insurance claim. Meanwhile, his partner had the vehicle in Acapulco. The police weren’t fooled, and the two men were busted for possessing stolen property and filing a false insurance claim. They’re now facing charges in Mexico, and the Hummer is back home north of the Rio Grande.
The Fraudster for Worst Achievement in Special Effects goes to “Two Places at Once,” the eye-popping story of a chiropractor with a phantom double. The mystery began when the chiropractor said goodbye to the Ontario clinic where he worked and moved to the U.S. Or did he? Apparently, he continued to stay busy at the Ontario clinic. Very busy, in fact, as his name and credentials continued to appear in many of the clinic’s reports and invoices submitted to insurance companies. The chiropractor was very surprised to hear the news when investigators contacted him in the U.S. It turns out computer-generated effects were used to pull off this fraudulent illusion. The case of the double-dealing clinic has been turned over to authorities for investigation.
The Fraudster for Worst Director goes to the not-quite-a-genius behind “The Careless Collector” — the story of a man who was in love with vintage sports cars but just couldn’t seem to keep track of them. It began when he filed a claim with his insurance company reporting that his beloved classic Corvette had been stolen. The company noticed that this was the third time in six years that the man was reporting a car theft. The other two were a vintage Porsche and and a Mercedes. So an investigator decided to pay the man a visit, and discovered that his small, residential property was filled with stolen cars and car parts. A search revealed that he had some of the cars he had reported stolen, as well as others. In a final twist, one of them was another Corvette that had been stolen from an NFL player 14 years ago in the U.S. The ending of this epic is being written by a U.S. judge.