Car insurance 'ghost broker' jailed
A "ghost broker" has been jailed at the Old Bailey for what is believed to be the UK's biggest fake car insurance scam, police said.
Danyal Buckharee created four websites offering cheap car insurance and used paid-for advertising to ensure his online enterprises appeared at the top of internet searches.
Between May 2011 and April last year he used the websites to dupe 600 drivers into buying worthless policies over the phone, the investigation by City of London Police's Insurance Fraud Enforcement Department (IFED) found.
Many of his victims only realised they had been conned when they had their car seized by police for having no insurance.
The 42-year-old pocketed more than £550,000 by making up the bogus websites - Aston Midshires Insurance, Astuto Insurance, Car Insurance Warehouse and First Car Direct Insurance - spending much of the money in casinos, the court heard.
Buckharee, of Coalecroft Road, Putney, south-west London, was sentenced to three years in prison to be served consecutively to a four-and-a-half year jail term he is currently serving for fraud following a separate investigation by the Metropolitan Police.
Also jailed today was his criminal associate, Giovanni Recchia, who helped Buckharee run the First Car Direct Insurance website.
Recchia, 46, of Galway Crescent, Retford, Nottinghamshire, was sentenced to 12 months in prison.
Detective Constable Patrick Einsmann, who led the investigation, said: "Buckharee executed the UK's biggest ghost broking scam, making half a million pounds and leaving 600 people oblivious to the fact they were driving on our roads uninsured.
"Buckharee was pulling all the strings, using a collection of sham websites to hawk his fraudulent policies to drivers across the country, frittering away the cash on gambling and girls.
"Unfortunately for him, a forensic IFED investigation has put these pleasures beyond his reach with him behind bars."
Buckharee had admitted two counts of fraud relating to the Aston Midshires Insurance and First Car Direct Insurance websites and three counts of money laundering in relation to the four websites.
Recchia was found guilty by a jury last month of one count of fraud by false representation.
A third defendant, Mohamed Saleh, 26, of Greenford, west London, who was charged with one count of money laundering, was acquitted at the same court.
Head of the IFED, Detective Chief Inspector Dave Wood, said: "Crime gangs are increasingly using the internet to deliver their insurance scams directly into our homes.
"These gangs are ruthless in the pursuit of financial gain so it is vital that drivers shopping online for car insurance question what they see offered on a website to ensure they get a real deal.
"Consumer diligence, coupled with enforcement action being taken by IFED, is the best way to confront this threat now and in the future."