Quiz show cheat guilty of insurance claim fraud

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Charles Ingram, the television quiz show contestant who won and lost a million pounds after his coughing ploy was rumbled, yesterday faced further disgrace when he was convicted of defrauding an insurance company.

Ingram, 40, a former army major, had denied the charges, which related to a house contents insurance policy. But a jury at Bournemouth Crown Court found Ingram, from Easterton, Wiltshire, guilty on two counts of deception.

He falsely stated that he had made no insurance claims for three years when he took out a policy in July 2001. He went on to make a £30,000 claim from Direct Line insurance, following a burglary at his home in August 2001. He was cleared of five other charges and released on bail until he is sentenced next month.

The convictions have come at the end of a humiliating year in which he was stripped of his winnings from Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?, lost his £45,000-a-year job and was featured in an embarrassing EasyJet advertisement.

In August, the former Royal Engineer had his rank and title withdrawn and was forced to resign by an army board, but allowed to keep his £13,000-a- year pension. He and his wife, Diana, were seen selling household items at a car boot sale a month later.

His barrister, Selva Ramasamy, said that Ingram, who completed 16 years of army service, was out of work and around £400,000 in debt. He was also on medication for anxiety and depression. Mr Ramasamy asked for psychiatric reports on Ingram to be prepared before the sentencing.

After yesterday's hearing, a spokesman for Wiltshire Police pointed out that the offences occurred before the recording of the television quiz show and added: "The press interest in this case had no relevance to the investigation."

Ingram and Diana were each fined £15,000 and given 18-month suspended jail terms for their deception on the television show hosted by Chris Tarrant, in which Ingram used a system of coded coughs with an accomplice, Tecwen Whittock, to win the prize money.

Ingram, a father of three, has since claimed that after the trial he considered suicide and spoke of the "cataclysmic" effect of having the winner's cheque cancelled.

A documentary about the TV fraud attracted nearly 17m viewers. The Advertising Standards Authority's rejection of his complaint against an EasyJet advert which pictured him and his wife next to the phrase "Need a cheap getaway. No Major fraud required" only added to his notoriety.

But despite the adverse publicity, Ingram and his wife are soon to feature in a celebrity version of Wife Swap, Channel 4's reality TV show. And, in an ironic twist, a screenwriter has been commissioned to write a script based on Ingram's plot to win £1m.