60 guilty of 'cash for crash' scam that added £100 to Durham car insurance bills

 

A total of 60 people have been convicted or pleaded guilty to being involved in one of the country’s largest “crash for cash” scams.

Reporting restrictions have been finally lifted on a case that began last year and has seen 70 defendants brought before Newcastle Crown Court. At its heart is the Wright family, of Burnhope, which is widely suspected of involvement in organised crime and came to national prominence three years ago when two streets it had named after its members without permission had to be renamed by police.

The fraud was so bad that people living in Derwentside, County Durham, where the main players behind the scam were based, had to pay up to £100 extra for their car insurance.

Police uncovered the scale of the fraud while investigating the activities of members of the Wright family. Concerns over local organised crime led to a major investigation, named Operation Nacho, assisted by the Insurance Fraud Bureau and other agencies. Police looked at 1,800 accidents handled by two particular firms and swiftly identified 261 that looked suspicious.

Investigators suspected some were entirely fictitious, some staged and some vastly exaggerated. They identified 25 accidents that were considered to have the highest impact on the public, financially and in terms of suspected organised crime involvement, and these were selected for detailed investigation.

Those 25 crashes resulted in more than £514,000 being obtained for the claimants. The real figure was estimated to be more than £3m. Seven of the 60 convicted were members of the Wright family.

Judge Roger Thorn lifted the order that prevented the media from reporting any of the proceedings. Key players included Paul Jonathon Wright, 40, who is known as Jonty and ran PJ Autos, a recovery, storage and vehicle-hire business. He is yet to be sentenced for his part in the scam, which involved making false claims for storing damaged cars and hiring replacement vehicles at up to £200 a day.

Also involved was his older brother Alan, 49, who was jailed for four years after a trial last year. A police source described Alan as the head of the family and he was found to have had four fake crashes within just 10 months.

Another family member bought an Audi with 112,000 miles on it, staged an accident in it near his home in Burnhope, and when he made a claim after apparently writing it off, its mileage had dropped to 37,000, making it much more valuable. The claimant also falsely claimed to have suffered whiplash, the source said.

The Transport Select Committee is investigating the extent to which bogus and exaggerated whiplash claims push up the cost of car insurance. Insurers have urged tougher action to curb the number of whiplash claims, which add an estimated £90 to every car-insurance premium.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
SPONSORED FEATURES
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent