Fraudster's boss speaks out
A FRAUDSTER who conned two insurance companies out of nearly £1million was today been described as "reliable" and "respected" by his boss.As reported in later editions of yesterday's Evening Star, Martin Willcox, of Philips Crescent, Needham Market, stole more than £870,000 from AXA and £100,000 from his previous employer Highway Direct Ltd.
A FRAUDSTER who conned two insurance companies out of nearly £1million was today been described as "reliable" and "respected" by his boss.
As reported in later editions of yesterday's Evening Star, Martin Willcox, of Philips Crescent, Needham Market, stole more than £870,000 from AXA and £100,000 from his previous employer Highway Direct Ltd.
The 48-year-old was sentenced to four years in prison when he appeared before Ipswich Crown Court yesterday.
During the hearing the court heard Willcox had set himself up in a rented flat in Churchman's House, on the corner of Portman Road, within sight of AXA which is around 200 yards away.
As he fleeced the insurance giant by siphoning off money from inflated claims, the bogus companies he set up were traced back to the exclusive apartment, his employer in effect, was paying for.
David Williams, claims director and Willcox's boss at AXA, said the company had been left shocked and disappointed by Willcox' crime and had now reviewed procedures in their claim's office.
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Mr Williams, claims director for AXA Insurance, said: "He (Willcox) had a huge amount of experience in the insurance industry and we generally found him to be very reliable.
"We used him as someone who was a good reference for more junior members of staff.
"He wasn't overly friendly but he didn't socialise a lot with a lot of the team. "He was an older age group than a lot of the rest of them but he was not an outcast or a loner.
"He was very well liked and respected."
Willcox worked as a senior claims handler for the company and was part of a 26 strong team.
They have been left "distressed" and "upset" by what happened but have found some comfort in their success at uncovering Willcox' deception.
Mr Williams added: "I am disappointed naturally but I am pleased we identified it and also pleased it wasn't me that identified it, it was the team.
"It was the people who worked with him that noticed irregularities, did investigations and solved the problem as to what he was doing.
"I'm pleased it was tracked down."
Willcox spent two and a half years working for the insurance giant before he was rumbled by his colleagues.
"He had some time off and we do carry out audit checks. We came across something that didn't look right and began investigating.
"Once we had found the irregularities it was quite quick really. We have got a fraud team who got involved and they used software and had access to banking records. They ran IT reports to see what he had been doing," Mr Williams added.
The company also checked with brokers to ensure no customers had been affected by the fraud.
Consumers and employees are unlikely to feel the effect of the fraud financially as it is relatively small compared with the scale of claims AXA deal with.
Mr Williams said: "AXA Insurance have outstanding on claims £2.1billion at any one time. This is not going to have an impact on finance or rating or expansion plans or sales."
Despite this Mr Williams said the £870,648.32 defrauded by Willcox was the largest case of theft from AXA that he knew of and measures have now been taken to prevent a repeat.
He added: "We are changing our processes but this was not opportunistic, he was not taking advantage of an easy process. He set out to do this before he joined us and very much planned what he was doing and did it very well.
"The reports we run which enabled us to check the work he was doing, we realise we could use on a more regular basis.
"In 2005 we are bringing in a new claims system and if we had that already there would be no way he would have been able to do this.
"He (Willcox) was not printing and authorising his own cheques. In AXA you can't print and authorise your own cheques that's something we prevented previously."