18 weeks' jail for owner of car used in accident scam

18 weeks' jail for owner of car used in accident scam
Ariffin handed over his car to a fellow conspirator after he was told it would be repaired for free.

SINGAPORE - He was promised a free bumper for his car but what work safety and health officer Ariffin MD Rais got instead was a jail term for allowing his car to be used in a staged road accident.

On Thursday, the 46-year-old pleaded guilty to his involvement in a conspiracy to cheat NTUC Income Insurance Co-operative of $13,000 by submitting a fraudulent property damage claim to his vehicle.

He was jailed for 18 weeks for his role in the scam.

On July 27, 2009, a stranger had approached Ariffin in a coffee shop near Sembawang Road, after noticing Ariffin's car bumper was damaged.

The man named Bhai, offered to repair Ariffin's car for free if Arifin would allow his car to be used in a staged accident. Bhai, whose identity has not been established, also offered Ariffin cash if he would agree to make a personal injury claim.

Ariffin rejected the cash offer but greed got the better of him and he returned to the coffee shop later that evening to hand over his car to Bhai.

Ariffin's car was one of four vehicles involved in the accident along Sembawang Drive at about 11pm on July 27, 2009.

Various people were recruited in the scam to be "phantom drivers" and "phantom passengers". Their role was to falsely report that they were involved in the accident.

The fake passengers had an additional job - make fraudulent injury claims to insurers.

Ariffin is the fifth of nine people allegedly involved in the accident to be convicted.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Joshua Lai had sought a custodial sentence of at least five months, arguing that for cases of motor insurance fraud, deterrence is the predominant sentencing consideration.

DPP Lai said that such offences are difficult to detect and involve multiple layers of deception.

The accused's role in providing his vehicle for the staged accident makes him more culpable than a phantom driver or passenger who merely furnishes his particulars in the accident statement form, DPP Lai told the court.

But defence lawyer Michael Chia argued that Ariffin's role was a minor one in the scam, as he was a "mere pawn" and "far from being the controlling mind".

Mr Chia added that Ariffin did not receive any money from the scheme.

He had also, out of "genuine remorse", made a restitution of $8,000 to NTUC Income, which is more than the price of a new bumper.

In response, DPP Lai said that if Ariffin had accepted cash, that would have led to more charges.

In his sentencing, District Judge Shawn Ho agreed with the prosecution that Ariffin's culpability is higher than co-accused persons who are phantom drivers and passengers.

The 18 weeks of imprisonment for Ariffin is the longest sentence among the five convicted, who had been served with jail terms of between six weeks and four months.

joycel@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on Aug 9, 2014.
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