A father of four who faked his own death for more than £850,000 in insurance was caught when a friend tried to use his HMV staff discount card to buy an Elvis CD, a court heard.
Hugo Jose Sanchez, 57, worked as a web designer for the music retailer and arranged a devious plot to embezzle a fortune and start a new life in Central America, according to a report in the Telegraph today.
Sanchez had taken out life insurance policies and built up large credit card debts, when his wife Sophie contacted his employers to inform them he had suffered a fatal heart attack during a holiday in his native Ecuador.
It is reported that he then planned to set up his own animation company in Costa Rica, where his wife and children would eventually join him.
However Sanchez was rumbled when a friend used his staff discount card to buy an CD, which triggered an investigation involving HMV, insurers and the police. When his wife presented his death certificate as proof, investigators found that it was covered in Sanchez's fingerprints.
From faking Sanchez's death and producing a fraudulent death certificate, Mrs Sanchez collected large sums from life insurance and payment protection cover, before returning to Central America. She also received a death benefit payment of £112,000 from HMV and began to receive pension payments.
Following her conviction, the authorities began extradition proceedings to bring Sanchez back to Britain. He was extradited from Australia in March following a request from Thames Valley Police's economic crime unit.
Sanchez admitted 12 fraud offences at a previous hearing and was sentenced to five years in prison at Oxford Crown Court.
Insurance fraud has been steadily increasing for many years and is a contributing part to rising premiums. While few of us are so deceitful to fake our own deaths, many people do not believe that making a false claim is wrong.
In fact, over four million Brits have considered making a fraudulent home insurance claim, according to recent findings from Moneysupermarket.com - this is equal to 4.3 million or 11% of the population. Worryingly, almost 780,000 people have already defrauded their home insurer by successfully making a false insurance claim in the last five years.
Typical examples of insurance fraud include failing to disclose motoring convictions or previous claims when applying for cover, or exaggerating claims by adding extra items to a genuine claim.
More drastic examples include people hiding their valuables and staging a burglary in an attempt to claim thousands on their insurance policies, or dropping their old television down the stairs so they can claim for a new flat-screen model.
Not worth the risk
Yet while small scale fraud might not come with a five-year jail term, there are strict penalties, explains Peter Harrison, insurance expert at MoneySupermarket: "With recent news the UK has slipped into a double-dip recession, household finances will undoubtedly be stretched, but no matter how tempting, fabricating a claim for a payout is illegal, and you could face being prosecuted as a result."
"Insurance companies take fraud very seriously, no matter how big or small the amount being claimed for. If insurers are suspicious of a claim's validity it will be investigated with specialist detection processes and anti-fraud technology."
Harrison adds: "Anyone caught and found guilty of insurance fraud would find it extremely difficult to get insurance cover in the future. Previous convictions for insurance fraud must be disclosed on application forms for any type of insurance. Insurance premiums will be much more expensive for someone guilty of making a false claim, and in some cases insurers may not be willing to offer cover at all."