Project Whiplash Ringleader Sent to Prison
On February 23, 2012, Toronto Police arrested 37 individuals in connection with an insurance scam. The operation, called Project Whiplash, targeted a group that allegedly staged 77 motor vehicle collisions.
This week the ringleader of the operation, Uthayakanthan Thirunavukkarasu, was sent to prison for 3.5 years and was ordered to pay restitution of $375,000. An estimated $1.2 million flowed through his account for the scam.
At least one of the staged crashes in May 2007 resulted in a brain injury.
Josh Tapper and Wendy Gillis of the Toronto Star explained how the scam worked:
A recruiter might scope possible participants inside a public space, like a coffee shop, insisting the plan is foolproof, an easy way to earn money. From there, the recruiter acts as coach. He tells people where the accident will occur, where inside the vehicle they should sit and what to tell authorities following the crash…
While police say that numerous collisions allegedly submitted for insurance claims did not actually occur, those that did were also planned carefully. In one collision racket, a scheming driver might stop in front of a laneway and motion an oncoming vehicle to enter traffic; his partner, driving in the opposite lane, then “accidentally” collides with the car… emergency personnel are sometimes called to make the scene more realistic.
With a police investigation underway, the scammers would allegedly forge medical documents claiming injury, often signing on behalf of doctors who never actually assessed the patients. Some of the accused are identified as paralegals, who allegedly filed the insurance claims seeking financial recovery for vehicle damage, physiotherapy, chiropractic work and lost wages.
Insurance companies have decried the practice of staged collisions as one of the reasons for higher premium rates.