Patel staged at least 93 crashes
A 24-year-old man has been jailed for four-and-a-half years after admitting his part in a £1.6m "crash for cash" conspiracy in Greater Manchester.
Mohammed Patel deliberately caused at least 93 car crashes in three years, each costing insurers about £17,000.
Patel, of Nottingham Drive, Bolton, admitted a number of charges at Manchester Minshull Street Crown Court.
He charged £500 a time to stage accidents, which enabled car owners to claim for bogus damages from insurers.
Patel forced a number of low speed crashes by braking suddenly, often at roundabouts, so the driver behind would crash into the back of him.
Claimants - who owned the cars Patel was driving - demanded compensation for personal injury, courtesy cars and legal fees at the expense of the other party's insurers.
As a result of the conspiracy he earned about £46,000. But the cost to the insurance industry was huge, the court heard.
William Baker, prosecuting, said the earnings funded luxurious foreign holidays and expensive cars for Patel and his unemployed girlfriend Ettorina Hay.
The court heard the scam was exposed by suspicious office workers who overlooked the Eden Point roundabout - favoured by Patel for his crashes - on the A34 at Cheadle Hulme, Stockport.
Mr Baker said staff had noticed "one vehicle colliding with another at low speed with minor damage, and often the same person driving the lead vehicle".
"They told drivers of the rear vehicles they thought they were the victim of fraud," he added.
Patel pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to defraud, six counts of dangerous driving and four counts of driving while disqualified between May 2005 and August 2008.
He was arrested days after he was observed staging two crashes in one day, Mr Baker told the court.
After his arrest he gave a prepared statement to police and pleaded guilty to the charges at the earliest opportunity.
Patel paid £46,000 into his girlfriend's bank account and when police searched her home in Kirkby Road, Bolton, they found it full of expensive furniture and electrical equipment.
A £10,000 second-hand Mercedes coupe and a £14,000 Lincoln Navigator were also in her name.
The pair enjoyed trips to Turkey, Barcelona and France, the court heard.
Mr Baker said Hay "enjoyed a much higher standard of living than she would have experienced living on benefits of £90 per week".
Hay, 29, admitted one count of converting criminal property and one count of possessing criminal property and will be sentenced on 18 December.
Sergeant Mark Beales shows how Mohammed Patel was caught
Judge Bernard Lever told Patel that his "was not a victimless crime" and he had given no thought to the potentially serious psychological and physical impact on his victims.
The judge said that only a "significant" custodial sentence would send out the message about his "disgraceful and dangerous" behaviour.
Investigations were initially carried out by AXA insurance, one of the companies affected by the scam, which passed on its findings to Greater Manchester Police.
Sgt Mark Beales, who led the inquiry for GMP's Specialist Operations Branch, said: "Patel was prepared to put lives in danger to make money.
"I have no doubt that people driving on the roads of Greater Manchester are safer with this individual behind bars.
"This abuse of the insurance claims system has implications for all law-abiding road users."
'Lives at risk'
A number of other defendants, who have been convicted of conspiracy to commit fraud, are also awaiting sentence.
Patel was also banned from driving for three-and-a-half years.
Speaking after the hearing, the Association of British Insurers (ABI) said that staged motor accidents were a "serious crime".
"These frauds put innocent lives at risk and push up the cost of motor insurance for honest customers," said Nick Starling, the ABI's director of general insurance.
The UK Insurance Fraud Bureau (IFB) is currently investigating 28 similar suspected operations around the country.