A Hemel Hempstead resident has been convicted of fraud and received a suspended sentence after making a false insurance claim to Hertfordshire County Council for injury and vehicle replacement.
Fungai Gwekwerere, 41, of Heather Way, Hemel Hempstead has been sentenced to six months custody, suspended for 18 months, following his conviction at St Albans Crown Court on Friday, November 26. He was also ordered to carry out 120 hours unpaid work and pay costs of £4,000 to Hertfordshire County Council at a rate of £100 per month.
The court heard that Gwekwerere submitted a claim for injury and vehicle replacement of £25,000 to the county council, stating that he had been involved in an accident at around 2:30am on 9 June 2018 while driving along Cumbrian Way, Hemel Hempstead.
He said he had collided with a ‘dark green pole’ that had been left on the side of the road by highways workers carrying out road works, and that this had caused his vehicle to flip onto its side.
However, when two officers from county council’s highways team attended the scene, they noted car debris and a damaged pedestrian guard where the foundations had been knocked out of the ground, indicating Gwekwerere had been travelling at speed. They found no evidence of any street furniture in the road raising suspicion that the claim was fraudulent. The matter was subsequently referred to the Hertfordshire County Council’s Shared Anti-Fraud Service for investigation.
During an interview under caution by council investigators, Gwekwerere stated that he left the pub in the early hours having drank one and a half pints. He maintained that he was traveling around 30 mph and that the cause of the collision was a green pole which he believed had been removed from the scene by one of the police officers attending the accident.
Gwekwerere was summonsed to appear at St Albans Magistrates Court on July 17, 2020 charged with Fraud by False Representation contrary to Section 1 (2) of the Fraud Act 2006. He pleaded not guilty and elected for trial at the Crown Court.
His trial commenced at St Albans Crown Court on November 2, 2021. During the trial two officers from Hertfordshire Constabulary said they had attended the scene of the accident but stated that the only debris removed from the road were the damaged railings. This was supported by bodycam footage. Gwekwerere was found guilty by the jury after 45 minutes of deliberation.
Councillor Bob Deering, Cabinet Member for Resources and Performance, said: “People who try and defraud the council are taking away much needed resources from other council services and service users. We take issues like this very seriously and will always investigate if we believe there has been any wrongdoing.”
“Hertfordshire County Council work closely with our partners in law enforcement and justice to ensure that we can protect our law-abiding residents from those who choose to break the law”