'Cash for crash' Luton gang smashed after five-year probe
In 2006, Luton in Bedfordshire was seen by police as a hot spot for so-called "cash for crash" insurance fraud, but six years later members of a gang responsible for a £5.3m scam are in jail.
The Luton-based ring engineered crashes involving unsuspecting motorists as well as making bogus and inflated personal injury insurance claims.
Police came across the insurance fraud while they were investigating organised criminal activity in the town.
With the Insurance Fraud Bureau, they uncovered a web of deceit involving people from professions including the legal, medical and motor trade.
During the police operation, homes in Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire and Berkshire were raided.
The car insurance fraud centred on an accident management company based in Leagrave Road in Luton.
The gang also used land at a farm to the north of the town to store the damaged vehicles.
The police investigation saw 39 defendants appear at crown court in separate hearings over three years.
Three of the final four were found guilty on Thursday at Luton Crown Court of conspiracy to defraud.
Kamsan Mahmood, 42 of Long Meadow Farm, Chalton, Istafa Hussain, 35, of Lincoln Road, Luton, and Peter Charlery, 45, of Long Meadow Farm, Chalton, have been remanded in custody to be sentenced at Luton Crown Court on 27 April.
Irtiza Fazal, 40, of Lincoln Road, was acquitted by the jury after a seven-week trial.
Thirty three defendants pleaded guilty and two others were convicted at earlier trials.
Those court proceedings could not be reported until now because of legal reasons.
At the start of one of the trials Prosecutor David Farrell QC said: "The term used for this fraud is cash for crash. It has become a national problem but had particular hot spots, Luton being one of them."
Bedfordshire's assistant chief constable Andrew Richer said: "In 2006 Luton was a known hot spot for offences, also known as 'cash for crash', but in 2011 that is no longer the case.
"The case had grown considerably in size and complexity since the initial lines of investigation were pursued in May 2006.
"This was a calculated and systematic fraud perpetrated on numerous victims."
After Thursday's hearing Glen Marr, director of the Insurance Fraud Bureau, said: "The fraud is estimated to cost the industry £1.9bn a year and that adds on average £44 to every policy holder's annual insurance premium.
"We will continue to find, pursue and expose criminals involved in organised insurance fraud.
"The message is loud and clear - seek to defraud an insurer and you risk serious repercussions and seizure of assets."