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MPI details year's top attempts at insurance fraud

Don't lie to MPI.

The provincial auto insurer released its Top 5 frauds of 2012, and how dishonest vehicle owners paid the price for filing fraudulent claims.

Manitoba Public Insurance said its special investigations unit prevented payouts of $9 million in fraudulent auto-related claims this year.

MPI spokesman Brian Smiley said the government insurer has been highlighting the fraud cases for about 10 years, adding the intent is to promote MPI's fraud tip line and let ratepayers know fraud is being detected.

Smiley said the special investigations unit has about 20 staffers, all former police officers, who look into about 3,000 cases annually.

"They all have a unique skill set that they bring to the unit," Smiley said. "Some specialize in bodily injury, others in vehicle fires and others in hit-and-runs."

Fraud is detected through a variety of means, Smiley said, including calls from the tip line, information from law enforcement and suspicious MPI staff.

The top five frauds included:

-- A man denied any involvement in a collision involving his own vehicle, which had side-swiped another vehicle. Police went to the man's home, about a block away from the collision scene, and found the owner drinking beer. He denied any involvement.

However an off-duty police officer on his way to work witnessed the collision and saw the driver flee the crash and was able to pick the owner out of a photo lineup. A friend of the owner and passenger in the vehicle later confirmed the owner had been driving.

The owner was fined $1,500 and ordered to pay $60,000 in vehicle damages.

-- Two men were fined $1,000 each and claims of $16,000 were denied after they admitted hiring an arsonist to destroy their vehicles.

Surveillance video captured images of an individual smashing the windows of two vehicles and setting them on fire.

As a result of the special investigations unit's work, one of the vehicle owners admitted he and another man hired a third person to destroy their vehicles to avoid repair costs.

The arsonist was a youth who was ordered to complete an alternative measures program.

-- A Winnipeg man was fined $1,000 and his $8,200 claim for a damaged vehicle was denied after he was tripped up by his vehicle's crash-data recorder.

The man claimed his vehicle was damaged when a truck ran a stop sign and hit him.

But the vehicle-crash recorder on his Chevy Cobalt revealed the car was parked at the time of the collision.

The man later admitted his car was in poor mechanical condition and he staged the collision in hopes of having it written off.

-- A Winnipeg woman was fined $1,100 and her $20,000 claim was denied after it was discovered she lied about who was driving her vehicle.

The woman told MPI she was alone at the time of a collision but the vehicle's crash-data recorder indicated the passenger seat was occupied. Witnesses told police at the scene the vehicle had been driven by a man who appeared to be impaired, smelled of alcohol and was unsteady on his feet.

-- A man who had been collecting income-replacement benefits for a year following a collision was fined $1,000 and ordered to pay restitution of $8,466 after he pleaded guilty to fraud.

MPI paid the man benefits when he claimed he was too badly injured to work. After nearly a year, the special investigations unit found the man had been working -- activity logs at his place of employment revealed he had put in 131 shifts of employment while receiving income-replacement benefits.

Manitoba Public Insurance encourages anyone knowing someone who is involved in auto insurance fraud to call the MPI TIPS Line: 204-985-8477 or toll-free 1-877-985-8477. All calls are anonymous.

aldo.santin@freepress.mb.ca

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