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

The Last Word: For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?

Michael Calvin's Last Word

For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?
HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower