A FLINT man was part of a gang that deliberately crashed a 12-tonne bus with 26 passengers on board in a huge ‘crash-for-cash’ scam.
Sami Ahmed Selam, 37, of Chester Road, Flint, was one of four people found guilty at Sheffield Crown Court yesterday of playing a part in a fraud conspiracy worth almost £500,000.
After sentencing, the group were described as a “professional highly-organised group" by police.
Seven others in the conspiracy had already pleaded guilty.
South Yorkshire Police said inquiries began after an apparently routine, minor collision involving the bus and a Vauxhall Zafira in the Burngreave area of Sheffield, on June 17, 2011.
Bus driver Adam Herbert was in on the plot.
The force said investigations into claims following the bus crash led to a wider inquiry into the activities of a Sheffield-based accident claims company called City Claims 4 U, run by defendants Mohammed Omar Gulzar and Shoaib Nawaz.
A spokesman said they went on to identify suspects involved in 10 incidents in Halifax, Sheffield and Rotherham.
He said a series of warrants were executed at a number of addresses linked to City Claims 4 U after officers received information that it had been submitting fraudulent claims to insurance companies.
These claims were boosted by false claims for the hiring out of replacement vehicles provided by CCC Hire 4 U, another company owned by Gulzar.
Selam was one of four people found guilty of conspiracy to defraud insurance companies between January 1 and July 31, 2011.
Gulzar, 31, of Osgathorpe Road, Sheffield; Nawaz, 25, of Earl Marshall Road, Sheffield; and Javed Khan, 46, of Nansen Road, Birmingham, were also convicted.
Another seven people from Sheffield, Bradford and Coventry had earlier pleaded guilty.
DC Mark Wootton, who led the investigation, said: “This was a professionally-planned, highly-organised group of individuals who set out to defraud a number of insurance companies by making deliberate false claims and pocketing the money for themselves.
“The fraud involved false claims for personal injury, vehicle damage, over-inflated recovery and storage costs, together with extortionate and false claims for hire vehicles from CCC Hire 4 U, a company owned and run by Mohammed Omar Gulzar."
South Yorkshire Police's Economic Crime Unit manager, Graham Wragg said: “The police have a duty to protect life and, while some of the accidents were totally fictitious, others involved members of the public and placed them in danger.
“After their convictions today, the police will use the Proceeds of Crime Act to recover, as far as possible, any benefit these fraudsters had from their criminal activity.”
Officers said they worked closely with the Insurance Fraud Bureau (IFB), a London-based industry organisation, and FirstGroup to identify and gather evidence.
IFB director Ben Fletcher said they are currently investigating more than 90 criminal gangs involved in ‘crash- for-cash’ fraud.
He said: “Scams like this expose the shocking lengths fraudsters go to in order to make money through what they wrongly assume is a victimless crime.
“‘Crash-for-cash’ costs the insurance industry £392m per year, but it's honest policyholders who ultimately have their pockets picked by the fraudsters.
“But beyond the financial impact, this is a dangerous crime. Stage managing crashes is reckless. No-one can control that series of events and fraudsters are gambling with the lives of innocent people when they try to do so, particularly when a 12-tonne bus is involved.”
Dave Alexander, regional managing director for First UK Bus in the North Region, said: “Our passengers and their safety and security is our highest priority. Although the collision in question was a minor bump, the consequences could have been much worse. To have potentially put people’s lives at risk, by staging a collision was dangerous, callous and quite unbelievable.
“I can assure our customers that we will continue to relentlessly pursue any instances of fraud on our buses, because ultimately it’s the honest, fare-paying customer who is the real victim when unscrupulous people try and cheat the system.”
Those convicted will be sentenced at a date to be fixed.