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OFF BEAT: 'Naïve' fraudster spared jail in insurance scam


An unemployed tattoo artist didn't realize his Range Rover was under warranty when he handed it over to insurance fraudsters because he assumed he couldn't afford crucial repairs.

By the time the owner learned the warranty would cover the repairs, the Range Rover had been used in a $78,000 staged-accident scam.

Fortunately for the 30-year-old, Stephen Eatherall of Burnley, England, a British judge reportedly found him “naïve” and spared him any time in jail.

The scheme began in 2007 after the Range Rover broke down and a friend connected Mr. Eatherall with people who promised to make the repair problems disappear.

Mr. Eatherall then told his insurer that the Range Rover had been involved in a crash with an Audi. The Audi's owner reportedly wanted to dump his car, and a man running an auto recovery business said he cleaned up the crash scene before towing the cars.

Both vehicles were actually damaged in an auto repair garage. The garage's owner and an employee alleged they were in the Audi and suffered whiplash in the crash.

But the scam unraveled when Mr. Eatherall confessed to his insurer, Zurich Insurance Services Inc. At least two people were sentenced to jail for conspiracy to defraud.

The judge, however, noted that the evidence provided by Mr. Eatherall helped convict one person. The judge also said the owner was more naïve than the fraudsters who sought to profit illegally.

While he escaped jail, Mr. Eatherall did receive a 51-week suspended sentence and was ordered to put 200 hours of labor.

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