Mastermind jailed over motor insurance fraud

Ex-car workshop owner staged accidents and recruited people to submit fake claims

A man who was one of the brains behind a motor insurance fraud syndicate that submitted false claims of about $380,000 in relation to nine staged accidents was jailed yesterday for three years and four months.

Su Chia Ern, 45, who owned the now-defunct car workshop Concept Services Enterprise, pleaded guilty to six charges of cheating.

He admitted to 25 other counts, which were taken into consideration during sentencing.

Ex-car workshop owner Su Chia Ern pleaded guilty to six charges of cheating. ST PHOTO: WONG KWAI CHOW

A district court heard that between July 2008 and June 2009, Su submitted or abetted in the submission of the false insurance claims.

Three insurance firms were duped by the syndicate, which had 20 people, and paid out $175,663.

The two other masterminds were Teo Kok Hwee, a managing director of a recruitment services firm, and Pan Weida Pepin, a car dealer.

Su, Teo and Pan would recruit car owners and drivers to make false reports stating they had been in traffic accidents, when they had not.

The trio would stage the accidents, but got others to submit property damage and personal injury insurance claims in their names.

To support the claims, Su would take photos of the damaged vehicles. He would sometimes even remove parts of a vehicle to make it look like it had been involved in a genuine accident.

In 2009, Su got Godfrey Liew Kok Hon, 41, the husband of his girlfriend's sister, to submit a false claim when he found out Liew was having financial difficulties.

Liew agreed to leave his car at Su's workshop in Sin Ming Industrial Estate. The car was subsequently damaged to make it appear like it was involved in an accident.

Liew also got his wife, You Baolan, involved as a phantom passenger in the fake accident, so that she could make a false insurance claim.

He later obtained a medical report and certificate by lying to the doctor that he had stiffness in the wrist and lower back. His wife allegedly also got diagnosed with whiplash injury and purportedly submitted an injury claim for $21,794, but this was not paid out as the insurance company suspected fraud.

The prosecution asked for 31/2 years' jail for Su, noting that such cases involve multiple layers of deception, and cause premiums for all motor insurance policyholders to rise. In 2013, the General Insurance Association of Singapore said it conservatively estimated one-fifth of all claims to be inflated or fraudulent, and such claims cost about $140 million a year.

Su is out on $200,000 bail, pending an appeal against the sentence. He could have been jailed for 10 years and fined on each cheating charge.

Teo was jailed for 24 months last year, while Pan's case is pending. Liew was jailed for six months. You's case is also still pending.

In all, 15 people in the syndicate, including Su, have been convicted.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 20, 2016, with the headline Mastermind jailed over motor insurance fraud. Subscribe