Fraudster jailed for exploiting Grenfell, Manchester Arena and London Bridge tragedies
Woman made more than 50 fraudulent claims against three insurers
The woman would have received more than £175,000 if all the claims were paid out
The claims involved the Grenfell Tower fire, Manchester Arena bombing and London Bridge terror attack
A woman was jailed yesterday (Wednesday 19 December 2018) after she exploited the tragic incidents of the Grenfell Tower fire, Manchester Arena Bombing and London Bridge terror attack to make several fraudulent insurance claims, amid a series of other false claims.
Following an investigation by the City of London Police’s Insurance Fraud Enforcement Department (IFED), Ruksana Ashraf, 44, of Edinburgh, was sentenced at Inner London Crown to three years in prison for fraud by false representation and money laundering offences.
Ashraf, who hid in her bedroom when IFED officers visited her home to execute a search warrant, was brought to the attention of IFED by insurance company Royal Sun Alliance (RSA). Using internal fraud identification procedures, they noticed similarities in claims that had been made against several different policies.
Despite each policy apparently being taken out by a different person with a different address, the Insurance Fraud Bureau (IFB) were able to confirm Ashraf’s home address following a data protection request. The group of bank accounts used to create the policies and receive funds from the claims were all the same.
Lots of the claims were similar in nature, with multiple claims for lost high value items such as jewellery and designer clothing, often from specific brands.
RSA raised their concerns with IFED, which then began an investigation into Ashraf. She was arrested in 2016 and interviewed, but answered no comment to all questions and was released under investigation.
While IFED continued to investigate, fraudulent claims were identified against Aviva Insurance and Legal and General after they noticed a spike in claims for loss or theft of high value items, predominantly in the Edinburgh area.
Each of the claims had clear similarities with the claims that were made against RSA, in that they were taken out using names of people who don’t exist and don’t reside at the address. Plus, the claims themselves were once again for theft or loss of luxury items including jewellery and designer clothing.
In light of this new information, IFED used cross border powers and executed a search warrant, with support from Police Scotland, at Ashraf’s home and her relative’s address, and she was found at the latter. Upon entering, IFED discovered Ashraf was within one of the bedrooms behind a locked door and it appeared she was trying to hide items within the room.
Following a search, paperwork relating directly to the fake policies and claims that Ashraf had made against RSA, Legal and General and Aviva was found, including fabricated receipts and documents, fake driving licences and passports, sim cards and hand written notes relating to her fraudulent enterprise.
Claims exploiting tragic events
Other material was also discovered which revealed claims that IFED weren’t originally aware of. These claims consisted of:
- Grenfell Tower fire: three claims, stating that she was visiting her family and her personal items had been lost in the fire
- Manchester Arena Bombing: two claims, stating that she’d attended the concert with her partner and daughter, but left her items behind when she escaped the venue.
- London Bridge terror attack: one claim, stating that she’d been in the area of the attack and had lost her personal items after being told to run away from the area.
IFED officers also found packs of documents laid out in her bedroom that Ashraf had prepared in advance to make even more fraudulent claims.
In total, Ashraf took out in excess of 70 policies and made over 50 fraudulent insurance claims. The collective amount that she attempted to steal through her fraudulent activity was £179,000, with £50,000 being paid out to her.
DC Pete Gartland, who led the investigation for the City of London Police’s Insurance Fraud Enforcement Department, said:
“It’s clear that Ashraf is a heartless and selfish individual. She had no qualms in exploiting these tragic events to make a financial gain, showing no empathy for the families of those who lost their lives in some horrific circumstances.
“Her fraudulent activity also impacts the general public, causing insurance premiums to rise for everyone.
“Insurance fraud is a serious crime and this case, including the sentencing, shows that it is not taken lightly by IFED, the insurance industry or the criminal courts.”
Matt Smyth, Technical and Major Loss claims Manager for Legal and General, said:
“We (Legal & General) are pleased that we were able to identify Ruksana Ashraf’s fraudulent activity and bring her to the attention of the Police. Insurance fraud is a major issue and this case is an example of how Insurers, the Police and the Courts are working well together to make it clear that fraud will not be tolerated and that there are consequences for this behaviour. We are committed to proactive investigation of all insurance fraud for the benefit of protecting our genuine customers.”
John Beadle, Head of Counter Fraud and Financial Crime, RSA:
“This woman ruthlessly manipulated insurance companies to feed her own greed, taking out insurance policies in false names and then making up completely fictitious claims, exploiting insurers’ desire to do the best for their customers by settling claims as quickly as possible.
“In order to ensure she got money to which she was not entitled as quickly as possible, she even cynically made up claims connected to various terrorist incidents and other disasters, such as the MEN arena, Borough Market and even Grenfell Tower. She did this knowing that insurers were likely to quickly settle claims in order to minimise further stress for their customers. On the spectrum of cynical and calculated dishonesty in respect of insurance fraud, this must rank amongst the very worst kind. We are grateful to IFED for their support in bringing this woman to justice.”
Tom Gardiner, Head of Fraud at Aviva, said:
“This is an appalling case where Ashraf exploited tragic public events to cloak her frauds. I am very proud of our team at Aviva who identified Ashraf’s crimes and then worked with other insurers and IFED to bring her to justice. In total, we avoided 15 claims made by Ashraf. Insurers have effective mechanisms for sharing data and intelligence and this case shows that if you do commit fraud then its increasingly likely that you’ll be caught and prosecuted.”