FOUR 'opportunist fraudsters' who committed a 'crash for cash' but couldn't get their stories straight to insurers have been handed suspended sentences.

The four men were sentenced at Liverpool Crown Court on December 2 after a lengthy investigation by The City of London Police's Insurance Fraud Enforcement Department (IFED).

LV Insurance first raised concerns about four me to the IFED in March 2017 when they all had claimed to have been involved in a crash between two cars on July 21, 2016.

However, their insurance claims highlighted existing links between them including the fact that all four were linked on social media.

Arnold Flanagan from Moreton, first took out an insurance policy with LV on June 30, 2016 but cancelled it three weeks later on July 23, stating that his Fiat Punto had been stolen.

LV was first made aware of a crash when a claim was submitted by a solicitor representing Levi Ireland from Bodelwyddan.

The claim alleged that Ireland's Mazda had been involved in an accident with a Fiat Punto on the M62 near Runcorn on July 21, 2016.

An email address for Ireland was provided with the claim which matched the email used by Flanagan to take out his insurance policy.

Flanagan then called LV again to report the crash while subsequent injury claims were then made by Jamie Howard and Thomas Johnson, both of Birkenhead, who said they were passengers in Flanagan’s car.

At this point social media links between Johnson, Ireland, Howard and Flanagan were uncovered but despite this, Ireland denied knowing Flanagan to his insurer.

LV’s concerns led to them rejecting the personal injury claims made by Ireland, Howard and Johnson, and referring the case to IFED for investigation.

IFED’s investigation found that Flanagan had worked for the claims management referral company that was the one also instructing the solicitors acting for Ireland, Howard and Johnson.

All four suspects were subsequently traced and interviewed under caution by IFED on the allegation of conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation.

Across the course of the investigation, the court heard how the men could not get their stories straight.

While Ireland did admit to knowing Flanagan, he said it was by chance that Flanagan and Howard had collided into the back of his car.

But Flanagan and Howard said their car had broken down and they phoned Ireland to come and tow them away.

Johnson wasn’t a passenger, but in his interview, he claimed that Flanagan offered him the chance to make some money if he agreed to say that he had been part of a car crash involving Flanagan, Ireland and Howard.

Johnson agreed initially but soon he changed his mind and asked Flanagan to leave him out of the fraud.

When interviewed again, Flanagan admitted that he had applied for the LV insurance fraudulently as he didn’t have a driving licence, but maintained that there had been no conspiracy to commit fraud in response of the claims.

However, at Liverpool Crown Court on 17 June 2019, Flanagan pleaded guilty to the conspiracy on the first day of his trial while Howard changed his plea mid trial to guilty on 19 June 2019.

Johnson and Ireland had previously pleaded guilty before the trial began.

The four men were sentenced to the following: Arnold Flanagan, 27, of Moreton received 22 months imprisonment, suspended for 18 months, 180 hours of community service and a 10 day rehabilitation activity requirement for conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation and fraud by false representation in relation to the inception of the policy with LV.

Both Levi Ireland, 27, of Bodelwyddan and Jamie Howard, 28, of Birkenhead received 17 months imprisonment, suspended for 18 months and 180 hours of community service for conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation.

While Thomas Johnson, 28 of Birkenhead, received an 18 month community order, 150 hours of community service and a 10 day rehabilitation activity requirement for conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation.

Clare Lunn, LV General Insurance Fraud Director, said: “It’s encouraging to see these opportunist fraudsters receiving jail time and driving home the fact that fraudsters will not get away with trying to pull the wool over our eyes.

"Insurance exists to put things right for genuine customers when they go wrong, not to be abused by criminals looking to make a few quid for Christmas.

"LV General Insurance takes a firm line on defending any fraud we detect and we will always push for the strongest possible sentences.”