Nineteen members of a ‘cash for crash’ fraud gang have been sentenced over their “pathetic” attempts to stage a bus crash in order to make insurance claims.
The scam was exposed thanks to CCTV footage which showed members of the gang unable to stop laughing as they feigned injury on board the double decker.
A court heard some of the defendants struggled to keep up the pretence and found it “hysterically funny” as they tried to claim that they were in pain and in need of immediate medical help.
Leeds Crown Court was told one member of the gang, Shane Lupton, was caught on camera making “Superman dive” down the aisle of the Arriva bus.
Innocent passengers on the bus, which was travelling between Knottingley and Wakefield, looked on bemused as those involved in the scam cried out for ambulances.
The incident happened after 19 members of the gang boarded the bus together at a rarely-used stop at Ferrybridge Square on March 26, 2013.
David Dixon, prosecuting, said the driver immediately became suspicious as all the passengers appeared to know each other.
As the bus approached a junction it was struck from behind by a Nissan Micra being driven by Richard Harper.
Mr Dixon said the driver was aware of a “slight bump” which he barely felt.
The prosecutor said: “The whole group that had boarded at Ferrybridge Square came rushing forward towards the cab holding their necks, one holding his leg, otherwise acting as if they had been in a serious accident.
“Demands were made for ambulances. In effect, all of them complaining that they had been injured in some way.”
Members of the gang then began to abuse and criticise the driver, saying he was a dangerous driver and warning others that got on the bus they may not be safe.
The driver continued the journey after speaking to Harper and his passenger Jake Penny.
Those involved in the scam got off the bus in Pontefract, claiming they were going to hospital for treatment.
CCTV footage of the incident was saved and analysed. Some of the defendants appeared unable to stop laughing during the incident.
Litter and other debris on the floor of the bus did not move during the incident despite the defendants throwing themselves forwards.
Mr Dixon said: “The footage from that accident shows the somewhat bizarre and over-the-top reactions of these defendants.
“An unconnected and innocent passenger can be seen on the footage to be utterly bemused by the group’s actions.
“The prosecution maintains that the acting by the defendants is so bizarre that it makes it plain that this was a group-planned dishonest activity as part of an insurance scam.”
All of the defendant’s apart from Harper subsequently made accident claims for whiplash and soft tissue injuries.
The defendants’ Facebook accounts were checked and a number were found to know each other.
Mr Dixon added: “This was a clear-cut attempt to obtain thousands individually from their part in this scheme, but with the knowledge that a number of others were involved.
“The footage is so clear it is comical that they thought they could get away with it.”
The insurer’s potential liability from the claims was a minimum of £140,000. Mr Dixon said that figure could have been “dwarfed” by legal costs if any of the claims were pursued and civil trials held.
A total of 21 defendant’s pleaded guilty to fraud.
Harper also pleaded guilty to dangerous driving.
Judge Penelope Belcher sentenced 16 members of the gang to immediate custody.
She said: “The acting was frankly pathetic. It was bizarre and totally over the top. I am in no doubt that you all knew what was going on from the outset.
“Fraudulent cash for crash claims are endemic. It is well known that this is a scourge on society and the impact that it has on honest insurance policy holders whose premiums are increased.”
Those sentenced were:
Richard Harper, 26, of Fryston Road, Castleford, jailed for 12 months.
Jake Penny, 25, Foss Walk, Castleford, jailed for 16 months.
Josh Penny, 23, Station Lane, Featherstone, jailed for 16 months.
Daniel Dobek, 26, Lawn Grive, Castleford, jailed for 16 months.
Shane Lupton, 40, Dickinson Terrace, Featherstone, jailed for 20 months. Shaun Cockerham, 47, Derwent Drive, Ferry Fryston, jailed for 16 months. Stephen Sankey, 25, St Andrews Road, Castleford, jailed for 21 months. David Southern, 30, Langdale Close, Ferry Fryston, jailed for 18 months.
Adam Smithson, 22, Shelley Drive, Ferrybridge, jailed for 16 months.
Christopher Malkin, 30, Austin Road, Ferry Fryston, jailed for 18 months.
Matthew Higgins, 26, Holywell Lane, Castleford, jailed for 18 months.
Paul Robbins,26, Morris Road, Castleford, jailed for 18 months.
Scott Powell, 29, Teal Close, Castleford, jailed for 16 months.
Lucas Noone, 26, Crownthorpe Road, Barnsley, jailed for 18 months.
Richard Williams, 26, Hillcrest Drive, Castleford, jailed for 18 months.
Zac Johnson, 20, Lisheen Avenue, Castleford, sent to a young offenders institution for 12 months.
Jade Siddons, 25, Fryston Road, Castleford, jailed for 16 months, suspended for two years.
James Taylor, 23, Rookhill Drive, Pontefract, jailed for 18 months, suspended for two years.
Richard Lupton, 29, Anfield Road, Liverpool, jailed for 16 months, suspended for two years.
Jake Hall, 24, Methley Road, Castleford, and Connor Thorpe, 23, Beech Court, Castleford, will be sentenced at a later date.