Scams and shams — December 2014

A Texas man’s attempted insurance fraud is thwarted by a car enthusiast who filmed him while driving. Plus, European police bust a counterfeit Viagra fraud ring.


Texas man’s insurance fraud undone by car enthusiast

It’s hard to be inconspicuous while driving the world’s fastest street-legal car. That’s the lesson Andy House, a 39-year-old from Lufkin, Texas, learned after he deliberately crashed his 2006 Bugatti Veyron in an attempted insurance fraud. He bought the limited edition vehicle — only 300 were ever made — in October 2009 for US$1 million and insured it for US$2.2 million. A few weeks later, he drove it into the Gulf Bay near La Marque, Texas, claiming a low-flying pelican caused him to swerve into the water. But there was no pelican and no swerve, as proven by the video taken by a passing motorist who was so impressed by the Bugatti he caught the whole episode on his phone — and posted it on YouTube. House, who was awaiting sentencing at press time, pleaded guilty and faces up to 20 years in prison.


Europe busts fake prescription drug ring


Police in Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, France, Hungary, Spain, Slovakia and Britain arrested 12 people and seized millions of euros in assets in a counterfeit Viagra fraud ring. They seized several million fake prescription medicines — mainly erectile dysfunction pills — worth more than 10 million euros ($14.5 million), luxury vehicles and a large amount of cash and froze more than 7.5 million euros in bank accounts and assets. The counterfeit drugs were imported into the European Union from Asia and, according to Europol, "contain incorrect dosages and ingredients which pose a serious health hazard."


Hamilton family guilty in mortgage scheme

Shan Lal and her children, Allan and Andre Mohammed, have been convicted in a complicated $1.2-million mortgage fraud in Hamilton. In 2008, the trio bought homes and then sold them at inflated prices to "straw buyers" who used the stolen identities of five victims in Hamilton and Kitchener to obtain their mortgages. The mortgages would default, leaving the lending financial institution with a huge loss. At press time, all three were awaiting sentencing.


Police thwart $7-million wine scam

Lovers of Tuscan wine should raise a glass to the Italian police force. Earlier this year, it confiscated 220,000 bottles of plonk that a local oenologist was trying to pass off as prized Brunello and Rosso di Montalcino red wines. The wine expert faked the labels and certification in the region’s wine registry and was set to sell the bottles to unsuspecting local producers when the police put a cork in his plans. According to police chief Luca Albertario, if the fraud had succeeded it would have been the biggest ever in the agricultural and food sector, with the fakes "ending up on the tables of half the restaurants in the world."