October 23 2014 Latest news:
Saturday, August 9, 2014
A fraudster whose lies about the cause of an injury cost Suffolk taxpayers more than £14,000 has been jailed after he was recorded boasting about “getting one over on the council”.
Michael Brame admitted duping Suffolk County Council into paying £7,200 in damages by making fraudulent claims that he had injured himself falling into a pothole outside The Swan pub in Needham Market.
Ipswich Crown Court heard yesterday that the 48-year-old former lorry driver had later admitted to police that the injury was incurred at a friend’s house when a brick wall collapsed under his weight.
Brame, of School Street, Needham Market, reported the pothole to the council in August 2012 but made no notification about his intention to claim for compensation, the court heard.
Jude Durr, prosecuting, said that after suffering the injury, Brame “saw the chance to get something and went for it”.
“It just snowballed from there,” he added.
SCC received notification of the complaint from personal injury lawyers, medical records were provided and by October 2012, Brame received his compensation.
The fraudster was exposed, however, when a “well intentioned member of the public” recorded Brame making claims he “got one over on the council” during a conversation in November 2012, the court heard.
“It was a consequence of that boasting that led to this false claim inquiry and the deception was uncovered,” Mr Durr said.
Brame admitted making false claims under police interview and pleaded guilty to fraud by false representation at South East Suffolk Magistrates’ Court on July 3.
Raising “aggravating factors” in the case, Mr Durr pointed to the legal costs incurred by the council, which were almost as much as the compensation paid out.
He also suggested the council should be considered a “vulnerable victim” as public organisations are “often seen as soft targets for fraudsters”. Finally, he highlighted the impact that false claims have on increasing premiums and leading genuine claimants to be treated with suspicion.
Judge Rupert Overbury, sentencing Brame said he was a dishonest opportunist and anything other than a custodial sentence would “reduce confidence in the insurance world”.
“The opportunity to make a false claim came around and you thought it would be easy money,” he said.
“At the time you didn’t think you were doing anything wrong, you only pleaded guilty because in your own words someone grassed you up.
“If no one had done so, no one would have been any the wiser and you would have kept the money.”
Joanne Eley, defending Brame, said he had lost his job as a lorry driver due to health reasons, was struggling on benefit and spent the money on his children. “He did not spend the money on luxuries or holidays for himself,” she said.
Brame was sentenced to 16 months, of which he will serve eight in prison and eight in the community.
A proceeds of crime hearing will be heard at a later date.