Joint Investigation Leads to Fraud Arrest – 1 March 2017
Following a joint investigation between SA Police and Return to Work SA a woman was arrested for fraud offences this morning.
Read the full article (originally posted on the South Australian Police Service Website), here.
In this case, we were asked to attempt to locate a vehicle that two previous Investigations Companies had failed to find.
The Plaintiff was alleging that whilst travelling along the Barrier Highway, near Broken Hill, New South Wales, she had approached a truck hauling a large, commercial boat. The Plaintiff alleged she was ‘waved through’ by a pilot vehicle and as she was in the process of overtaking, when truck veered into her path causing her vehicle to leave the road and roll. She ended up with significant injuries.
The vehicles allegedly involved did not stop at the scene and no identifying details were obtained. Local law enforcement were called to the scene but apparently did not arrive in time to gather details of the other vehicles. Emergency services attended the scene but were reluctant to cooperate.
A witness allegedly stopped and gave a statement to Police confirming the presence of the truck but they too were not able to provide any identifying details.
We were tasked to locate the ‘truck’, the driver and the pilot who had allegedly signalled. The Client stressed that if the truck and/or driver could not be located, they would be compelled to accept the Plaintiff’s version of events.
To begin, we requested all information on file. We noted that previous inquiries were quite detailed but focused only on boat companies and boat transport companies in New South Wales. We noted that although at face value the subject ‘truck’ was heading from New South Wales to South Australia, it could just as well have begun its journey from Queensland and had been headed to Western Australia.
Checks within those additional States gave no further leads. Checks with State and Local Government Authorities offered no clues as to the movements of this alleged vehicle.
The alleged Witness seemed to be avoiding our attempts to contact them.
Despite these setbacks, we persisted and eventually discovered that two small, seemingly obscure transport companies handled 90% of all the Nation’s large boat transports. One was located in Western Australia and the other in South Eastern Victoria.
We initiated inquiries with the company in Victoria.
We identified the driver who stated they were driving a Victorian registered semi-trailer, hauling a large fishing boat. We established they were heading west out of Broken Hill and the rear pilot alerted the driver of a vehicle approaching from behind at speed. The truck driver spotted the vehicle in the side mirror and noticed that it was about to overtake without slowing down. In response the truck driver steered to the left and dropped the left side wheels off the road to allow room for the overtaking vehicle.
The overtaking vehicle however, did the opposite and attempted to drop its right side wheels off the road but then the driver appeared to lose control and the vehicle continued veering off the road where it rolled several times.
The truck driver & pilot stopped immediately and attended the crash scene. They noted the driver of the vehicle (Plaintiff), with a dog sitting on her lap. They called Police and an Ambulance, which subsequently arrived. By this time, there were several people in attendance so after waiting a considerable time and as they were certain the truck driver was not involved in causing the crash, they departed.
The truck driver identified the drivers of the pilot vehicles and they gave similar accounts.
Our report highlighted the evidence obtained and given jurisdictional implications our Client had no case against them.
A Client who provided travel insurance asked us to look into a matter involving an Insured who had allegedly lost a bag full of video, computer and electronic equipment, totalling AUD$12,000.00 during their flight to New Zealand. The Insured had supplied receipts for each article lost along with a document showing that he had received compensation for the allegedly lost bag from the airline.
Despite making several appointments, the Insured who resided in regional Victoria, some 400km from Melbourne, avoided sitting for an interview. He also lodged several complaints re the investigation citing the ‘proof’ he had submitted of his loss, which was in compliance with the contract & policy provision. The Client was inclined to pay but allowed us the opportunity to complete our investigations.
We noted all the purchases were made from the same store. The Client had apparently contacted the store in question and had received verbal assurance that the receipts were ‘legitimate’.
The airline had also replied stating their compensation was also ‘legitimate’.
We aimed to confirm each of these ‘qualifications’.
We attended the electrical store and asked to speak with the Manager. We showed him the receipts that had been supplied and asked to see if they could be reconciled with their receipt book/accounts. After some convincing he agreed to check and found that although each of the stated articles had been purchased, each of them had been returned the following day and full refunds issued. No replacement articles were subsequently purchased.
We then contacted the airline. After checking baggage tag information we found that the bag that the Insured had allegedly lost (and subsequently received compensation for), never actually existed. Our checks confirmed that the Insured had not checked any bags in for this flight. The airline representative that we were liaising with was dumbfounded that they had paid compensation for the loss of a bag that had not even been checked in.
After consultation with our Client, it was agreed to prosecute this Insured for Fraud and subsequently, we lodged a Brief of Evidence with local law enforcement.
Some months later, we received a call from the local CIB (Criminal Investigation Bureau), thanking us for our work. Apparently, this particular individual had been on their radar for quite some time but they had never had (up until them), sufficient evidence to prosecute.
The matter had generated such notoriety, it was featured in the local newspaper.
In this investigation, we were instructed to obtain evidence of the Plaintiff. Our main problem with this assignment was that the Plaintiff’s whereabouts was unknown.
As a result, we began routine checks followed up with known associates, leading us to known upcoming Court matters.
Through our persistence we eventually found a listing at a local Court where he was appearing regarding an Assault Charge. By pursuing this line of inquiry, we were able to establish (particularly, from the Plaintiff’s Bail Conditions), further information previously unknown.
We subsequently located the Plaintiff and were able to gather and obtaining evidence which was referred for Fraud charges.
In this Nominal Defendant inquiry, we were instructed to investigate liability, the crash circumstances, details of any charges laid, BAC and vehicle registration details (amongst other details).
This crash (involving two vehicles), had occurred on the Old Stuart Highway near Monash, South Australia. Due to the speeds involved, the resulting injuries were severe and thus this matter was deemed a Major Claim.
Our initial inquiries with Police indicated that the Uninsured Driver was at fault. The Police had found him to be unlicensed and with a BAC of 0.115 at the time of the crash.
Additional information seemed sketchy from the Police, who seemed intent on attributing the crash to the Uninsured Driver (who we found was known to them from previous unrelated matters).
Nevertheless, we were persistent and through close questioning of the attending Police Officer, examinations of the scene and locating and inspecting the damage caused to both vehicles, we were able to determine the following facts indicating that the Plaintiff (whose vehicle had interstate registration), had failed to give way to the Uninsured (and thus possibly at fault for the crash):
- The attending Police officer admitted that the Plaintiff had reported that he had been driving at some distance ahead of the Uninsured’s vehicle when he inadvertently missed a turn, pulled over momentarily before attempting a U-turn (evidently, across the path of the Uninsured’s vehicle), leading to the collision.
- Evidence was found at the scene which indicated that the subject point of impact had occurred in the centre of the road.
- The damage to the Plaintiff’s vehicle was equal across the two driver’s side doors and spread equally across the front of the Uninsured vehicle – suggesting that the vehicles were at right angles at the point of impact.
There was also some contention as to who the actual driver of the Uninsured vehicle was but we were able to find medical records which showed that the person who initially claimed they were the driver had seatbelt bruising consistent with them being on the passenger side of the vehicle (and no head injuries), while the actual driver had no seatbelt bruising but a head injury which seemed consistent with damage to the windscreen in line with the driver’s seat.
So, as a result of persistent questioning of the given ‘facts’ of this case despite the initial Police response, evidence was established which not only demonstrated that the Plaintiff was the party at fault but also that they were not covered under the State legislation (because their vehicle was registered in another State).
Further to that, our inquiry confirmed that the seemingly ‘not at fault’ Uninsured Driver was unlicensed, driving an unregistered vehicle, DUI and unrestrained by a seatbelt.
We were approached by our Client to investigate a Motor Vehicle Accident resulting in Catastrophic Injury. We were advised that that there was limited information to go on and the accident had occurred in a very remote corner of South Australia (north of Coober Pedy).
The crash which had occurred 12 months earlier, involved a single vehicle where the driver had suffered catastrophic injuries resulting in quadriplegia. The reported circumstances were that the driver had been cut off by a passing truck, forcing them off the road, which resulted in the vehicle rolling. There was also anecdotal information that the driver had swerved to avoid a kangaroo.
The investigation was vital because under the South Australian Compulsory Third Party Insurance Scheme at that time, there was no claim if the driver was the author of their own demise. Another driver had to be found liable for the crash.
As the Major Crash unit of the State Law Enforcement Agency did not attend the scene, there was limited information regarding the actual accident site and key witnesses although named, were only recorded with a single telephone number each.
Our first step was to travel to Coober Pedy to interview the attending local Law Enforcement Officers. Crucially, the attending police admitted that the driver (who they found in situ in the vehicle), did not have their seatbelt on (contrary to the official report).
They also advised that they could not assist us in establishing the exact site, as the location was not marked and no one had recorded the location’s GPS coordinates. All we had to go on was that it was 100km north of the remote township and on the western side of the Highway.
The site had to be located, so we painstakingly scoured the area at approximately 100km north of Coober Pedy. This location consists flat, featureless gibber desert. After surveying the area for some time, we stumbled across some very faint markings leading off the road to some loose piles of shattered glass. Here, we found various items, including car parts, a post box key and some personal belongings. Each item was carefully removed and tagged.
These articles were then examined carefully back at base and from them we were able to determine that we had found a crash site involving a vehicle of the exact make and model as the subject vehicle. We were further able to confirm this as the correct crash site when information was received that the post office box key belonged to the husband of the driver.
Next, the available documentation regarding the incident was scrutinised and all available witnesses were identified, located and contacted.
The first on scene witnesses (who happened to be the ones we wanted to speak to the most), turned out to be a young couple from Switzerland, after we tracked them with only a first name and a prepaid cell phone. Unfortunately, we soon learned they had long since left the country. Despite this, we pursue them for statements and it was eventually agreed that we should meet with these witnesses in Switzerland and obtain their statements.
We subsequently met with these witnesses in Geneva and obtained statements detailing what they saw and what conversations were had with the occupants of the subject vehicle when they first arrived at the scene of the crash.
Other witnesses (all from various parts of Australia), were eventually tracked down and their statements obtained as well.
We found that many of the witness statements contradicted key claims made by the Plaintiff and the occupants of the vehicle, including confirmation Plaintiff was not wearing her restraints (as required by law).
At about this time, we located other photographs taken at the scene. Reconstruction engineers were then engaged accompanied us to the crash site. Using the marks at the scene in conjunction with the photographic evidence, we were able to determine the most likely scenario.
The matter later went to Trial in New South Wales, and due to the evidence obtained in our investigation, our client was not found liable in this case.
Hidden Dangers of Background Checks
In her 2009 Article for News Corp Australia, Emily Brayshaw writes about what she claims is a growing trend where employers are using social networking sites such as Facebook to ‘spy’ on their staff, under the guise of protecting the company.
She says that putting aside the legal and ethical implications of such behaviour, using social networks to do background checks on staff will likely result in a warped view because people who use these sites only reveal highly edited versions of their social lives and not much re their professional lives.
Emily goes on to correctly point out that detailed and meaningful background checks re employee integrity should aim to cover a prospective employee’s:
• Qualifications – tertiary, skills certification
• Credit history
• References – past employers, rather than ‘friendly’ contacts
She also correctly adds that an Employer will need to get consent from the employee to conduct any such checks, but these, and ongoing checks, could be made a condition of employment.
In closing Emily provides some handy tips and links to assist with the background check process:
Online resources for conducting employee integrity checks
• Background checks. This site provides information and resources to assist you with conducting background checks within Australia and includes verifying a person’s right to work, criminal history checks, newspaper and media checks and bankruptcy checks. http://www.backgroundchecks.com.au
• NSW Police – Application must be lodged by the prospective employee at police station close to where he/she lives. However, they can nominate for the employer to receive the results of the check. Cost of this check is $52. Time for check 10 business days. The site http://www.backgroundchecks.com.au has information on how to conduct these in your State and in NSW.
• Qualseach – http://www.qualsearch.com.au/print.htm
You will need to contact Qualsearch to be able to participate in the scheme. Cost of this check is $55 plus GST. This fee applies to all qualifications across all universities that the candidate may have done, not just the highest degree. At present, Notre Dame is the only university that has not signed up, but it is looking to become part of the service.
• ASIC register of banned/disqualified persons – http://www.search.asic.gov.au/ban.html
The check is free of charge, can be easily conducted and results are instant.
Fraud and Cyber Crime UK’s Most Common Offences
In their Article in The Telegraph, posted on 19 January 2017, Martin Evans and Patrick Scott write that according to latest figures from the annual Crime Survey of England and Wales (CSEW), one in 10 UK residents are falling victim to On-Line Fraud. This they claim, comprises almost one half of all crimes in the country.
That said, Evans and Scott point out that just a fraction of offences are reported to the police because victims either feel embarrassed or believe little can be done to catch those responsible. Adding to the problem, many of those who suffer losses are elderly or vulnerable people who fall victim to so-called phishing scams in which they are persuaded to hand over passwords and bank account details.
Victims of online fraud are often targeted by criminals based overseas who use a variety of sophisticated techniques to gain access to their bank accounts or credit card details before plundering their savings.
Evans and Scott also mention that Chief Constable Jeff Farrar, from the National Police Chiefs’ Council (UK), acknowledged that under reporting was a problem.
He said: “These latest figures show that there were 1.9 million cases of fraud on UK-issued cards, which is an increase of 39 per cent on the previous year. The vast majority of these are not reported to the police, who have only seen a 3 per cent increase in fraud offences.”
He added: “The ability to commit crime online demonstrates the need for policing to adapt and transform to tackle these cyber challenges.”
The Pros and Cons of a Telephone Interview.
An interview is a conversation between two or more parties where questions are asked and answers are given. Usually, interviews are formal affairs where the conversation is controlled by an interviewer/s and it’s usually conducted face to face with the interviewee/s.
While face to face interviews may be by far the most common and preferred way of conducting interviews, there are occasions where the opportunity for a face to face meeting may not present or be optimal. In these instances, other means of communication may be used.
Interviews could effectively be conducted by instant text message type computer programs (e.g. Whatsapp), but like emails, success would rely on the typing ability of the interviewer/interviewee. Alternately, programs like Facetime and Skype may prove to be the best alternative to Face to Face interviews (and they may well be over time), but currently, the availability and the familiarity of those programs is generally low across the general population.
Thus currently, the only real alternative to face to face interviews are those conducted over the telephone.
Telephone interviews can offer the following benefits:
- They’re much easier to arrange as no mutually agreeable venue or travelling is required.
- Because no travelling is required, they’re far more cost-effective, particularly if the interviewee is situated in a remote location and/or overseas.
- Telephone interviews in our experience tend to be more to the point and straightforward.
- Telephone interviews can be less confronting/stressful for the interviewee and in our experience witnesses who are reluctant to front a face to face interview, may be more amenable to an interview over the telephone thus providing an opportunity to obtain statements from otherwise reluctant participants.
- Because they’re more relaxed during telephone interviews, interviewees tend to be more candid in their responses. In our experience, they’re more likely to have an amenable attitude towards the interview and the interviewer and more likely to provide longer, more detailed responses.
- Because of the lack of direct contact, the interviewer is less likely to become sympathetic towards the interviewee and thus better able to maintain objectivity throughout the interview process.
- Because there are no visual distractions, the investigator can remain focused on the interview process, the responses provided and in particular verbal clues that the interviewee may impart. These verbal clues may include changes in the words used, changes in the tone of voice, pauses, changes in the details offered in descriptions – all of which could flag areas where the interviewer may need to probe for further information or seek other forms of confirmation.
- A telephone interview is well suited to being recorded (given that the infrastructure exists and the interviewee grants permission), and if such a recording can be done (and is allowed), the interviewer is free to take detailed notes on verbal clues and other information which may assist with the interview and/or investigation as a whole.
Issues/Concerns around telephone interviews include:
- The Interviewer has to take care to confirm the identity of the Interviewee before proceeding with the interview.
- The interviewee may be less likely to sign their statement post interview. Unlike with face to face interviews, where a statement can feasibly be produced for signing immediately after the end of the interview, in the case of the telephone interview, the written statement may take some time to be provided to the interviewee – in which time they may recant and/or have second thoughts about signing their statement.
- The Interviewer has little to no control of the environment within which the interviewee is in and thus may be unaware of any external factors that may influence the interviewees responses.
- It is not possible to evaluate non-verbal behaviour and/or clues over the telephone.
- Similarly it is also not possible for the interviewer to examine and evaluate physical evidence and/or relevant environmental and physical factors before, during and after a telephone interview.