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Pair guilty of ‘sordid’ insurance scam

BMW_X5_II_20090913_rearA WOMAN from south Pembrokeshire and a man from Carmarthenshire admitted an attempt to defraud the Tesco Car Insurance Company at Haverfordwest Magistrates Court on Tuesday.
Helen Jane Arthur, 43, of Ridgeway, Saundersfoot, and Paul Biella, 26, of College Square, Llanelli, stood in the dock together as they both entered guilty pleas to fraud by false representation, contrary to the Fraud Act 1996.
CPS Prosecutor Gerald Neave told the court that the co-defendants had “met by chance” at the Cross Roads service station in Kilgetty.
Gerald Neave explained: “Arthur had pulled into the garage in her BMW X5. As she was buying petrol, co-defendant Biella noticed the for sale sign in the car window. He offered Arthur £4,000 for the car, but she felt this was not enough and they could not agree a price.”
He added: “Several weeks later when times were hard, a friend suggested to Arthur that she should accept the offer and she searched through her mobile phone to find his number and then eventually got into contact with him.”
Mr. Neave continued: “However, on contacting the co-defendant rather than offering the £4,000 he said that if Arthur paid him £500 he would arrange for the car to be ‘stolen’ and she could claim for the loss of the car against her Tesco car insurance policy.”
“They agreed on this plan of action, and Biella affixed new number plates to the car and collected it from Saundersfoot” Mr. Neave told the court: “At 4.15pm on June 28, Arthur called the police and reported her vehicle stolen. PC Jones attended and took a report. Although Arthur claimed to be in possession of the spare keys, she could not produce them to the police. Police number plate recognition cameras revealed no trace of the car,” he said.
Mr Neave added: “However police were alerted to another vehicle with a different registration mark leaving Pembrokeshire and heading towards Llanelli. When they checked the details they found that the co-defendant Biella was an insured driver. A search of this Llanelli home revealed documents including a service manual for Arthur’s car. He was then arrested and eventually admitted the offences in interview.”
Arthur also admitted to police that she was part of the scam.
Defending, Michael Kelleher said: “Arthur is a lady of clean character hitherto, she has entered a timely guilty plea. She has never been involved with any dishonesty before, and wonders how she got involved in this sordid scam. She has had several family problems. She had bought the BMW X5 and a horse with inheritance money; she wanted a strong car for a horse box.”
Mr. Kelleher said things went wrong when she had various difficulties with her children, which The Herald cannot report as the court has placed us under reporting restrictions.
“The result of these problems was that she needed to sell this vehicle,” Mr Kelleher said.
He added: “It is still Arthur’s position that she was not the prime mover, however we have to accept that this could not have happened had she not agreed to report the vehicle stolen. So they are both in this together.”
Mr Kelleher told the court that he had three character references for Arthur which showed her to be a hard-working parent holding down a part time job at a supermarket.
“The vehicle was returned and Tesco did not pay out. The only person who lost out here was Arthur for paying half of the £500 which her co-defendant had asked for,” he said.
Before retiring for lunch the chairman of the bench said that he was considering all sentencing options from a community sentence to custody.
Following the adjournment, Probation Service Officer, Mrs Norman explained to the court that Biella wasn’t sure what he was going to do with the car, and hadn’t thought that far ahead.
Mrs Norman told the court: “Biella has been suffering from anxiety and depression but is actively looking for work in order to get his life back on track.”
When asked by the probation officer where he would have got the money from when he originally offered £4,000, he said he would have got the money from his parents.
The court was told by probation that it was money issues had prompted this behaviour from Biella.
On sentencing Biella, magistrates said: ”We seriously considered your situation because you’ve got a criminal record already. It was almost a split decision whether or not we should send you to prison.”
For his part in the plot he was given an 18 month community order and ordered to do 200 hours of unpaid work. He was also fined £145.
On sentencing Arthur, magistrates said: “We have decided to sentence you to a community order. We have reduced your sentence from 16 to 12 months, because of your guilty plea.”
Arthur was also ordered to do 100 hours of unpaid work and fined £145.
The chairman of the bench said to the pair: “If we see you in court again you are likely to go to prison”.