December 23, 2011 – A clumsy arsonist and a not-so-injured trucker were two fraudsters who unsuccessfully attempted to defraud Manitoba Public Insurance, which today released its annual list of Top Five Frauds.
All suspicious claims are handled by Manitoba Public Insurance’s Special Investigation Unit (SIU). The efforts of this special unit resulted in fraud savings last year of more than $9 million for Manitoba auto insurance rate payers. The SIU will investigate about 3,000 claims yearly. Anyone knowing someone who is involved in auto insurance fraud is encouraged to call the Manitoba Public Insurance TIPS Line: 985-8477 or toll-free 1-877-985-8477. All calls are anonymous.
No. 1 — ‘Playing with Fire’
The Winnipeg man agreed to set fire to a vehicle owned by an acquaintance, who wanted his decrepit beater written off for the insurance proceeds. The arsonist purchased gasoline, pouring the flammable liquid into empty, four-litre milk containers.
After being given keys to the vehicle, ‘Playing with Fire’ drove the vehicle to an isolated spot and set the vehicle on fire. However, during the commission of the crime, the clumsy arsonist inadvertently spilled gasoline on himself, setting himself on fire. He suffered second-degree burns to 50 per cent of his upper body and spent several days in hospital.
During the investigation of the auto theft claim, information was provided to investigators, who then located and interviewed the arsonist, whose severe burns were still very visible. The man subsequently pleaded guilty to one count of arson and received a one-year jail sentence.
The vehicle owner, who subsequently withdrew his auto theft claim, received a 15-month conditional sentence after pleading guilty to one count of arson to own property.
No. 2 — ‘Not an Automatic Theft’
Faced with mounting repair bills on an aging car, the vehicle owner arranged to have his vehicle stolen. The ignition of the vehicle was altered, allowing the vehicle to start for the thief, who was paid to commit this crime.
While driving the car away from the scene of the crime, the thief crashed the car heavily into a large tree. The thief later admitted they didn’t know how to drive a standard transmission and lost control while shifting gears.
An anonymous call to the TIPS Line claimed the vehicle owner had arranged for the theft of their vehicle. The investigation confirmed the ignition had been tampered with.
After being found guilty of Public Mischief and Fraud Under $5,000, the vehicle owner was fined $1,200 and order to repay $2,700 in restitution to Manitoba Public Insurance.
No. 3 — ‘No Such Address’
The man’s vehicle was written off after colliding with a deer near Thunder Bay. The vehicle owner provided a Winnipeg address and said he lived in an apartment with his wife, daughter and his sister.
The vehicle owner confirmed he worked in Thunder Bay, but insisted he returned to Winnipeg on weekends – a nine-hour, 400-km trip one way.
During the investigation it was discovered that the man’s wife worked in Thunder Bay and her FACEBOOK page had numerous photos and references to their life in Thunder Bay. The manager of the Winnipeg apartment block also had no records of the man residing in the suite.
Based on the information provided by the SIU, the total loss claim, valued at $12,000, was denied due to the man’s permanent residency in Thunder Bay, Ontario.
No. 4 — ‘Busy Cabbie’
After being injured in a crash, the taxi cab driver began receiving income replacement payments. Over the next several months the cab driver was insistent that he was suffering from extreme pain and unable to return to work.
Thanks to information obtained by an SIU investigator, an investigation commenced. Records obtained from the cab company reported that the driver had worked nearly 150 shifts of varying lengths – contrary to the activity logs provided to MPI, stating he was at home recovering.
The cab driver was convicted of Fraud Over $5,000, fined $1,000 and ordered to pay restitution of $8,500 to Manitoba Public Insurance.
No. 5 — ‘Not so Injured’
While driving his semi-trailer unit, a car passed his truck, causing the semi driver to lose vision due to thrown snow. The semi-trailer entered the ditch and the driver was injured.
Unable to work due to the collision, the Winnipeg man began collecting Income Replacement payments from Manitoba Public Insurance. After several months away from work, an investigation was opened due to information provided to the SIU.
Over the next few months the man was observed, and videotaped, driving various trucks to construction sites. In one instance, the man was seen removing heavy tarps off his load of hot asphalt. He was also observed getting into and out of truck cabs with no sign of physical limitations.
After pleading guilty to Fraud Over $5,000, the man received a fine of $2,000 and was also ordered by a judge to pay restitution of nearly $21,000 to Manitoba Public Insurance.
About Manitoba Public Insurance
Manitoba Public Insurance is a non-profit Crown Corporation that has provided basic automobile coverage since 1971. Our services are available throughout Manitoba in claim centres and Customer Service centres. mpi.mb.ca