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
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

Dying dream of Doctor Death

Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy
UK heatwave: Temperature reaches 39.8 degrees on Central Line - the sweatiest place in London

39.8 degrees recorded on Tube

There's hot (London) and too damn hot (the Underground). Simon Usborne braved the Central line to discover what its passengers suffer
Jessie Cave interview: The Harry Potter star has published a feminist collection of cartoons

Jessie Cave's feminist cartoons

The Harry Potter star tells Alice Jones how a one-night stand changed her life
10 best barbecue books

Fire up the barbie: 10 best barbecue books

We've got Bibles to get you grilling and smoking like a true south American pro
Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most
Katy Perry prevented from buying California convent for $14.5m after nuns sell to local businesswoman instead

No grace of God for Katy Perry as sisters act to stop her buying convent

Archdiocese sues nuns who turned down star’s $14.5m because they don’t approve of her
Ajmer: The ancient Indian metropolis chosen to be a 'smart city' where residents would just be happy to have power and running water

Residents just want water and power in a city chosen to be a ‘smart’ metropolis

The Indian Government has launched an ambitious plan to transform 100 of its crumbling cities
Michael Fassbender in 'Macbeth': The Scottish play on film, from Welles to Cheggers

Something wicked?

Films of Macbeth don’t always end well - just ask Orson Welles... and Keith Chegwin
10 best sun creams for body

10 best sun creams for body

Make sure you’re protected from head to toe in the heatwave
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon files

Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games
Women's World Cup 2015: How England's semi-final success could do wonders for both sexes

There is more than a shiny trophy to be won by England’s World Cup women

The success of the decidedly non-famous females wearing the Three Lions could do wonders for a ‘man’s game’ riddled with cynicism and greed