Police on alert for EQC fraud

Posted 28 Feb 2012 by MediaStuff Popular
Posted in EQC , Insurance , Media
This item was posted on the Stuff.co.nz website - click here to view the original

 

he Earthquake Commission (EQC) has stopped $1.1 million in incorrect claims for damage caused by the Canterbury earthquakes from being paid out, with seven suspicious claims being investigated by police.

In the latest case, a Christchurch property developer was last week charged with nine fraud-related charges following a complaint by the EQC to police in June last year.

The 41-year-old woman was charged with five counts of using forged documents, two counts of altering documents with intent to deceive and two charges of using a document with intent to obtain a pecuniary advantage.

She will appear in Christchurch District Court on March 8.

Police allege the woman submitted both forged and altered documents to EQC, along with photographs of properties she owned in Main South Rd and Ferry Rd.

The claims were made to EQC after the September 4, 2010, and the February 22, 2011, Canterbury earthquakes. They totalled about $20,000.

Detective Senior Sergeant John Rae said there were three women before the courts for allegedly submitting fraudulent EQC claims.

Most charges faced by the women carried a maximum penalty of seven years' imprisonment for fraud, Rae said.

Christchurch police were investigating another three cases of possible fraud relating to EQC claims, and a fourth case had been referred to North Island police.

Most of the cases under investigation involved false documentation that suggested the cost of repairing items was higher than it should be, or involved items that were not broken or not owned by the applicant, Rae said.

"This money spent by EQC is public money.

"It certainly is not a cash cow for anyone."

Rae warned there was a good chance those who were being dishonest would be caught.

Police were expecting there would be more claims to investigate, Rae said.

EQC claims review team manager Shane Collins said work done by her team had stopped $1.1m of incorrect entitlement being paid out by EQC since October 2011.

Incorrect entitlement could refer to someone who claimed for the full price they had paid for a television 10 years ago, but the television would not be worth that much today.

The scale of events since the September 2010 quake had "given opportunity to those who think they can claim more than their entitlement from EQC", she said.

"Unfortunately, in some instances, this may be deliberate dishonesty. EQC takes this extremely seriously and will have no hesitation in forwarding such cases to the police to lay charges."

EQC had nine staff members looking at claims and invoices that had been flagged as requiring more information, either from a customer or a tradesperson.

Collins said the files were not necessarily fraudulent, but had required further inquiries to ensure the customer received their correct entitlement.Since February 2011, 295 claims had been referred to the team.

Of the 295 files, 132 were still active, including the seven that had been referred to police.

Of the 161 files completed, 49 had been accepted, 13 had been declined, and 28 had required no further action.

The other 70 had been adjusted with part of the claim being declined or some details of the claim being changed with the customer's consent.

EQC communications adviser Michael Henstock said the commission was not aware of any money being paid out incorrectly, but if it had, it would be taking steps to get it back.

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