The ringleader of a gang who organised a "crash for cash" fraud is now facing prison. John Smith, 41, from Deeside in North Wales, has been convicted of staging seven fake collisions, which helped more than 200 individuals to submit false personal injury claims.
Smith denied fraud and conspiracy to commit fraud, but was found guilty on each charge.
Nine other defendants were also convicted at Manchester Crown Court of conspiracy to commit fraud, while five more pleaded guilty. The jury found two defendants innocent.
The court heard that between 2010 and 2012, Smith organised seven collisions in the north-west: six in Chester, and one in Eastham on the Wirral. In each collision a car would crash into the side of a bus. The fraud was uncovered when bus operator First Group became suspicious about the number accidents involving its vehicles.
The fraud was uncovered when bus operator First Group became suspicious about the number accidents involving its vehicles.
All the claims were for soft tissue damage and whiplash injuries, which are difficult to prove with medical examinations. Normally in such cases the insurance company is heavily dependent on the word of the claimant and often settles out of court.
In total 218 insurance claims were made. Of these, 177 came through Swift Accident Solutions, where Smith was managing director.
Smith rewarded himself with an average of £900 for each "victim" he introduced to solicitors and is believed to have cleared £159,000. The prosecution asserted that the false claims amounted to approximately three-quarters of the income of the business over the period of the collisions.
However, Detective Inspector Simon Lonsdale of Cheshire Police said that the size of the intended fraud was much larger: "Had all of the false claims created by Smith and his associates been successful we believe that the total cost would have been more than £1m, which would have been paid for by law-abiding citizens through their car insurance policies."
Detective Constable Stephen Owens added: "Although the trial against these defendants has now concluded, we will continue to investigate the case and further arrests are likely."
Smith will be sentenced on 23 April.