A 39-year-old businessman who tried to swindle an insurance company out of over £1,000 with a bogus claim for holiday accommodation that didn't exist has been given 180 hours of community service.
David Gault, of Derrylin Road, Bellanaleck, appeared at Fermanagh Court and admitted that between June 24, and November 3, last year, he forged an invoice and submitting it to AXA Insurance.
A prosecutor explained that on June 24, last year, Gault was taking his family on holiday to Wicklow when the caravan he was towing was struck by another vehicle in Cavan, about 27 miles from his home. The caravan, worth £4,300, was written off and Gault was compensated by AXA for his loss. However, in November last year AXA contacted the police after it received two further claims from Gault which caused the insurance company to become suspicious. One was for £1,125 for holiday accommodation as a result of the caravan being written off; the other was for £5,640 for car hire. Both were identical in lay-out.
The prosecutor said police checked with gardai and they could find no accommodation matching that shown on the invoice. Gault was arrested and initially denied knowing anything about the invoices. He later admitted that the car hire invoice was from a previous collision and a claim against a different insurance company. However, he continued to insist that he had stayed at the accommodation named on the second invoice. He claimed he had asked for a receipt and had one posted to him but it was a "scrawl" and he thought it wouldn't be stood over. The business had since gone bankrupt so he made up his own invoice.
The prosecutor said it was accepted the invoice for car hire was submitted in error.
She added that AXA was not at a loss and it never paid out on the claim.
The prosecutor also said that Gault continued to maintain that he did stay at the accommodation in question but police and gardai checks showed that no such place existed.
Defence barrister, Mr. Gavin Cairns, said the father of three had co-operated fully with probation in the preparation of a pre-sentence report.
He said this was a "singular occurrence" in what has been "an unblemished record" in Gault's business and private life.
District Judge Liam McNally said: "I suppose insurance companies are subject to this all the time. It's very difficult to combat this. This man was caught out by his own ineptitude."
He told Gault: "This is a case where you forged a document for the sole purpose of falsely obtaining money to which you weren't entitled from your insurance company."
He said the case met the criteria for a prison sentence.
However, he said Gault's admission of guilt was an indication of genuine remorse and according to the probation report there was "very little chance" of him re-offending.
He told him he was also taking into account the "many references from people in this area who speak highly of you", adding that he was giving him community service so he could "put something constructive back into the community".
Speaking after the case, a spokesman for the insurance company said: "AXA have a zero tolerance approach to fraud and we have recently expanded our Investigations Team to detect and investigate claims that we suspect are fraudulent. This is to protect our genuine customers and to make sure that we can keep the cost of insurance as affordable as possible. Mr. Gault embarked on a deliberate and calculated attempt to defraud AXA and we welcome the swift action of the PSNI and the sentence handed down by the court. We hope it will act as a warning to others that this type of crime will not go undetected or unpunished."