A B.C. Supreme Court judge ruled that three rear-end crashes connected to a Surrey auto body shop were staged in order to make fraudulent damage and injury claims against ICBC.
The defendants’ credibility “was so significantly impaired,” according to Justice Jennifer Duncan in her Sept. 8 verdict.
The crashes happened between Oct. 18, 2013 and Jan. 18, 2014 and involved seven defendants in various combinations related to defendant Pro Choice Auto Body Ltd. There were no independent witnesses. All of the vehicles involved, except one, had been purchased from salvage by Pro Choice.
“The accounts of each of the defendants who were actually involved in the collisions were inherently improbable,” Duncan wrote. She found ICBC suffered at least $84,000 in losses. Punitive damages will be determined after total claimed losses have been determined.
Duncan found that some defendants even tailored their evidence to explain inconsistencies or failed to mention certain details during the trial, which was held intermittently over 22 days in January, February and June.
“As one example, [Mahmoud] Haghmohammadi said that [Mehrafarin] Mehran and [Krishma Komal] Prakash had reminded him during the trial that he picked both of them up after Collision #1. Additionally, Ms. Mehran said her memory of events was better at trial after hearing Ms. Prakash’s evidence,” Duncan wrote. “I do not believe the defendants’ explanations that these collisions were accidents.”
Three of the defendants live in the same house near Pro Choice in Surrey. Pro Choice owner Major Singh opened it in 1998 and hired his brother Inderjit “Andy” Singh as a vehicle painter. Major Singh’s son Gursharanjit Singh was in high school at the time of the crashes. Though not employed by Pro Choice, he sometimes did paperwork at the office. Major hired Mahmoud Haghmohammadi in 2007 and he did most of the frame work.
ICBC special investigation unit detective Kirk Huxley went to Pro Choice while investigating an unrelated theft claim. Pro Choice lost its ability to direct bill ICBC for work in 2012.
Huxley reviewed ICBC claim files for brothers Inderjit and Major Singh and Mahmoud Haghmohammadi and “certain elements of them piqued Mr. Huxley’s interest.”
“All three collisions were rear-end accidents with no independent witnesses. All three resulted in personal injury claims. All but one of the vehicles involved had been purchased from salvage by Pro Choice Collision #1 and #3 occurred in roughly the same location, close to Pro Choice, after normal business hours, less than three months apart. Inderjit was involved in both collisions,” Duncan wrote.
“There were unusual connections between some of the people involved. Inderjit and Mr. Haghmohammadi worked together and had been in a rollover accident on the Coquihalla Highway in 2007. And the driver rear-ended by Inderjit in Collision #1, Karishma Prakash, had been in a collision while driving a Toyota Prius registered to Mohammed Raza Rasuli several months earlier. Mr. Rasuli was the driver who rear-ended Mr. Haghmohammadi in Collision #2.”
Save On Parts Wrecking bookkeeper Prakash married a friend of Haghmohammadi. Prakash had a romantic relationship with Rasuli, an auto body repair technician.
“Several witnesses testified that both defendants had worked in the same auto body repair shops in closely overlapping periods of time. All of them said they had never seen the two work in the same place at the same time, although in some cases the witnesses had to cast their minds back to inconsequential events at work more than a decade before trial. I am satisfied that Mr. Rasuli and Mr. Haghmohammadi had either met through their overlapping employment or were aware of each other, but Ms. Prakash was the critical connection for the purposes of Collision #2.”
Duncan found Haghmohammadi organized the staging of the first collision and Pro Choice, through Major, allowed the Zephyr to be used for the purpose of profiting from the damage claim.
Inderjit, Prakash and Mehran were all in on the claim. ICBC lost $34,000 after recovering $582.86 for the Zephyr and $534.87 for the Buick.
Haghmohammadi, Prakash and Rasuli combined on the second collision. ICBC paid-out more than $22,000, but recovered $1,011 from salvage for the Saturn.
Duncan also ruled that the third was staged, likely to ensure the Hyundai was totalled to secure a payout from ICBC, which collision number two failed to do. Inderjit, Major, Gursharanjit and Haghmohammadi were found liable for collision number three.
ICBC lost $28,000, after recovering $3,395 for the Hyundai and $820.02 for the Acura from salvage.
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