In just 11 months a Maserati Quattroporte was hit eight times by different vehicles, causing more than $260,000 of damage. Each time the accident was the fault of the other driver, if you believe the owner, and led to payouts from six insurance companies.
Police allege the prestige car is one of three at the centre of an insurance rort in which the owners claimed for damage done in staged bingles in Burwood - if they happened at all. Another Maserati, a Granturismo, and a Mercedes SLK were also used in the alleged scam, which made a total of 18 claims totalling more than $500,000 from 11 insurance companies over a similar 12-month period.
NSW Police and insurance investigators joined forces in a six-month operation which resulted in the arrest of two men and a woman last week. "We believe the three are principals involved in the staging of these accidents which we will allege are fraudulent or never happened,'' Detective Inspector Ian Pryde said.
The alleged scheme involves a driver running into one of the three cars, which is then towed to a smash repair business. A claim is then submitted to the company which insures the at-fault car. The drivers of the at-fault vehicles were also said to be involved in the scam.
In each instance the repair work was allegedly carried out at B and T Collisions, Burwood, owned by Chris Kmet, one of the men charged. The three cars were also registered to him. Kmet was charged with 18 counts of fraud and was bailed to appear at court on January 14. A 51-year-old woman and a 44-year-old man were also arrested. Both were granted conditional bail to appear at Burwood Local Court later this month.
"The investigation is still ongonig and there may be further arrests,'' Insp Pryde said yesterday. "It's a fairly complex investigation and we are being assisted by the individual companies affected by the alleged fraud.''
Industry sources say staged or non-existent accidents are costing insurance companies millions of dollars, driving up the policies of innocent motorists. "It is organised crime and being carried out every day in Sydney,'' a source said. "This is just one case which has possibly been uncovered."
The NSW Government last month announced a parliamentary inquiry into the relationship between vehicle repairers and insurance companies. Most of the terms of reference will centre around protecting consumers and a code of conduct in respect to the work carried out by panel beaters for the insurance companies.
"It's a start but really there needs to be an inquiry into the links between the industry and organised crime," the source said. "Ultimately it's the customer who is paying the price through increased premiums.''
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