A man who blamed a dead friend for a crash with a train, a man who filled his truck cab with water, and a phony sales "kingpin" are among Manitoba Public Insurance's top five fraud cases of 2013.
One man died and another was severely injured after their vehicle collided with a moving train.
The injured man, whose blood-alcohol levels were double the legal limit, told Manitoba Public Insurance officials and police that he was a passenger and his friend, who died, was the one driving.
However, evidence from a video camera on the locomotive clearly showed the person behind the steering wheel was the injured man.
This evidence resulted in many of the man’s Personal Injury Protection Plan benefits being denied, due to him being drunk.
The investigation saved $150,000 in payments.
Partners in crime
After a crash between a Jaguar and BMW, two men opened collision claims with MPI, claiming they did know one another.
The investigation found both men were actually business partners and friends who orchestrated a staged collision that led to both vehicles being written off.
A collision analyst found the Jaguar was used as a “bullet vehicle” and the BMW was a “target vehicle,” according to MPI.
Both men pleaded guilty to making a false statement and were fined, one for $2,000 and the other for $1,700.
The combined savings to MPI was nearly $50,000.
Story didn’t float
A 62-year-old Winkler man was fined $2,500 after he fraudulently claimed his pickup truck was stolen from outside his home.
The Dodge Ram was recovered a day later, parked under a large water hose that was attached to the community water-fill station. The hose was placed into the vehicle’s passenger compartment, filling it with water.
Court heard from an expert witness that the truck was equipped with an anti-theft immobilizer. The judge did not believe the owner’s story that someone had stolen his truck key.
Rolling into jail
A kingpin behind a massive and complex auto insurance fraud investigation — Project Rollback — was sent to jail for four years and ordered to pay $150,000 in restitution to MPI.
The Winnipeg man pleaded guilty to eight counts of fraud over $5,000 and commission of fraud for the benefit of a criminal organization.
The police investigation into Project Rollback began in 2005 after MPI investigators learned that dozens of used cars with high mileage were being purchased in Ontario, brought to Manitoba and altered to reflect greatly-reduced odometer readings, which increased their value.
The fraudsters would then make phony sales to each other, insure the vehicle at the increased price, then stage a series of accidents and thefts in order to cash in. More than 30 accused were arrested in 2009.
Despite living and owning a business in Kenora, a man decided to keep his Manitoba insurance because of the high cost of Ontario auto insurance — $12,000 to insure his car compared to $1,400 in Manitoba.
His decision would prove even more costly.
The 22-year-old was operating his vehicle when it lost control and rolled near Kenora. The vehicle, valued at $24,000, was a total loss.
He told his MPI adjuster that he lived in rural Manitoba. The SIU investigation confirmed the man was a resident of Kenora, owned a business and was paying income tax in Ontario.
His claim was denied.
Special Investigations Unit
Fraudulent and suspicious claims are handled by MPI’s special investigation unit (SIU), which saved more than $8 million for Manitoba auto insurance ratepayers by revealing fraudulent claims in 2013.
The SIU investigates about 3,000 claims annually.
Anyone knowing someone who is involved in auto insurance fraud is encouraged to call MPI's tip line at 204-985-8477 or toll-free at 1-877-985-8477.
All calls are anonymous.