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Burger van owner ‘cooked books’ over insurance claim



Swansea Crown Court

Swansea Crown CourtA LLANDEILO MAN has been sentenced after he tried to use fake invoices as part of a £300,000 insurance claim for damage to two catering vans.

The case was passed to detectives in the Insurance Fraud Enforcement Department at the City of London Police when investigators for NFU Mutual suspected false invoices had been provided to them.

Richard William Kirkup Lewis, 61, pleaded guilty to fraud by false representation and was sentenced to 12 months’ imprisonment, suspended for two years, at Swansea Crown Court on Friday (Jun 17). Lewis was also ordered to repay £37,464 in costs to NFU Mutual, pay £2,800 in court costs and pay £100 victim surcharge.

In August 2013, Lewis’ neighbour was said to have been carrying out some repair work to a fence on Lewis’ land. The neighbour was using a tractor, when it rolled downhill and crashed into two of Lewis’ catering vans that were parked nearby. As the neighbour attempted to drive the tractor away, the catering vans caught alight, completely destroying both vans.

Lewis, who was away working at the time of the incident, returned home and then claimed against his neighbour’s vehicle insurance for the cost of the two catering vans and also made claims for loss of earnings. In total, Lewis claimed that the two vans and equipment were worth in excess of £167,000 and said his lost earnings were in the region of £150,000.

Due to the high value of the claims, the insurer – NFU Mutual – appointed a claims investigator from the Investigation Services team at Cunningham Lindsey but when he went to check the damaged vehicles, Lewis stated he had already sold them to a local scrap metal dealer. Furthermore, the vehicle identification numbers (VINs) on the vans were completely destroyed by the fire. Lewis had no written record of the VINs that would allow NFU Mutual to estimate the true value of the vans, so he was asked to provide invoices from when he bought the vans.

Lewis then provided NFU Mutual with two documents that he said were invoices for the vans from a local manufacturer. However, when the investigator made further checks, the invoices proved to be fakes and found Lewis hadn’t purchased them from where he claimed.

When confronted, Lewis then changed his story saying that he bought the vans from a traveller, but he was no longer able to get in touch with him to verify this. At this point, the details were passed to IFED detectives to investigate.

Lewis was arrested in March 2015 and after further enquiries, Lewis was charged with fraud by false representation.

Detective Constable Aman Taylor, from the Insurance Fraud Enforcement Department said:

“It’s clear that Lewis lied and went to great lengths to try and support his very large compensation claim. Anyone who has supposedly invested over £150,000 in equipment would have surely kept receipts, invoices or had some kind of record to show their true value.

“Yet Lewis was unable to provide any documents or evidence that supported his claims that the two vans were worth as much as he claimed so he decided to provide fake documents instead. His actions were not just dishonest, but they were also illegal and this should serve as a warning to anyone to think twice before making false insurance claims.”

Commenting on the case, Rob Spiegelhalter, Fraud Manager at NFU Mutual said: “As a mutual insurer, being tough on fraud and the causes of fraud helps us to protect our members and reduce the cost of premiums. In this case, with the help of the Investigation Services team at Cunningham Lindsey, we were able to assist the IFED investigation and expose claims fraud against one of our members.

“As this case shows, fraud is not a victimless crime and we believe the court’s decision sends a strong message to those who might be tempted to commit insurance fraud.”

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Warning of serious disruption on M4 and M5 today due to fuel prices protest



POLICE have warned of “serious disruption” to drivers using the M4 and M5 on Monday 4 July due to a planned protest.

Protesters intend to block the Prince of Wales Bridge from 7am until 7pm as part of a nationwide campaign against rising fuel prices.

The protest is due to start at the M4 Magor services at junction 23A eastbound and the Clevedon Interchange at junction 20 of the M5 westbound.

It is also expected to cause disruption to the M48 Severn Bridge and the M32.

Drivers are being urged to avoid the area or plan alternative routes.

Bristol Airport has issued a warning urging travellers to allow extra time if heading to or from the airport.

Police said additional officers will be brought in to ensure the protest is carried out legally.

Drivers have been advised by Gwent Police to work from home where possible and avoid the area between 7am and 7pm, with protestors planning to block parts of the road between M4 Magor services, junction 23A eastbound, and Junction 20 of the M4 between those hours.

Chief Superintendent Tom Harding said: “Gwent Police, and Avon and Somerset Police, are working jointly with neighbouring police forces and partner agencies to ensure emergency and critical services continue and to reduce disruption to both road users and local communities, however we are preparing for serious disruption throughout the day.

“I would encourage drivers to reconsider their journey, consider working from home and avoid the area where possible.

“The right to protest under UK law must be balanced with the rights of the wider community who may be affected. We have additional officers and support in place on Monday to ensure the protest is carried out in accordance with the law.”

The planned protest is thought to have been organised by the Facebook group Fuel Price Stand Against Tax, and has attracted both criticism and support online.

The latest travel disruption comes following the closure of the Severn Bridge for a second consecutive weekend, as well as the Severn Tunnel rain line which will be out of use until July 10 due to essential work. Motorists will be unable to cross the M48 Severn Bridge until 6am on Monday as it is undergoing essential work for eight months.

The bridge was first shut last weekend as painstaking work to repair and replace corroded suspension cables began. Traffic on the bridge is likely to be very heavy on Monday due to the fuel protest.

Police have told protesters banners must be tightly secured to vehicles and nobody should be walking around on the bridge during the demonstration. Protesters will stay inside their vehicles or stand beside them.

An organiser said: “We will now only be doing it on the Prince of Wales Bridge. We have to keep in mind everyone’s safety and if we block the bridge totally and there is an emergency there would be hell. Yes it means only one bridge but [due to the amount of traffic caused] there will still be a massive impact.”

Two weeks ago one of the initial M4 bridge protest organisers Ashley Fowler said : “We’re all car enthusiasts and we have all been worried about fuel prices and when I saw the post about blocking the bridges we began talking about it. Then people started asking me to make an event so we could update each other.

“I made the event because I run a car club in Cardiff which I started on social media during the pandemic lockdowns to help people’s mental health. When we can we go out to car parks and just meet up and have a chat but during the pandemic we weren’t able to do it so I made the group.

“Now we can’t meet up so much again because of the cost of fuel. I know some of them can’t drive so much because they need to feed their kids. It’s serious. People are getting really depressed about it. One of the boys in the group has actually sold his car due to fuel price rises.”

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Ascona Group announces new Car and Truck wash facilities



Charlie's Truck Wash

ASCONA GROUP, one of the UK’s fastest-growing forecourt operators, is pleased to announce two new vehicle washing partnerships as part of improvements to its unique roadside retail proposition across its forecourt estate.

As part of a new partnership with the American based PDQ Manufacturing, a leader for in-bay automatic vehicle washing facilities, Ascona Group will be the first in the UK to install the ‘Laserwash 360 Plus’, a touchless car wash system for its customers.

The partnership will initially expand the wash options at the Hinton Service Station, with a view to roll out the system to other sites under the Ascona Group’s brand, ‘Charlie’s Express Car Wash’ later this year. The partnership is a significant investment for Ascona and demonstrates its commitment to ever improving the experience for customers.

Ascona Group is also delighted to announce a strategic partnership with WashTec UK that will see Ascona introduce a ‘First of its Kind’ truck washing facility at the Tenby Road site on the A40 Eastbound in Carmarthenshire, which offers the very best technology available to HGV drivers.

The truck wash employs a fully ‘closed loop’ total water recycling system, the first of its kind in Wales, which recovers all water used within the wash process, filtering it for reuse with little or no water entering the mains drainage system. This system ensures Ascona not only has the best commercial wash in South Wales, but also offers customers one of the more environmentally friendly approaches in operation.

Commenting on the announcement, CEO Darren Briggs said: “From the very beginning, we knew that our sites must present our customers with a unique and compelling offer which is why we are constantly seeking new and innovative ways to improve our roadside retail facilities.

“These two new partnerships further demonstrate our focus on creating industry-leading propositions and we are really excited to be working with PDQ Manufacturing USA and WashTec UK. Together, we are keen to continue to build on the success of these new operations and we are actively reviewing multiple opportunities across the Ascona portfolio to roll out more units such as these.”

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Nearly £50,000 of National Lottery funding for community groups in Carmarthenshire



FIVE local community organisations across Carmarthenshire are celebrating after being awarded a share of £49,575 of funding from The National Lottery Community Fund over the past month.

One successful project was MolTân Makers who will use their £9,820 grant to provide metal working workshops for people wishing to improve their mental health and well-being. The group will reach out to mental health groups and the wider community and also allow people to reconnect with the community following the pandemic.

One participant with MolTân Makers explained, “ The course was professionally run by four hard-working people who helped us with one to one tuition when needed. They were so welcoming and adaptable to individual needs and allowed me to attend the course at different hours due to health reasons.

“They were great company and created an interesting and positive atmosphere to help people with mental and physical health problems feel included and understood and we all took home what we made in the course.”

The Hangout received £10,000 and will help young people improve their mental health and wellbeing through structured outdoor activity programmes. The project will build on a previous pilot project that led to more young people becoming re-engaged in school following the pandemic and continuing to volunteer with the group after the initial sessions finished.

The Alternative Learning Company in Llanelli were awarded £9,955 and will recycle plastic bottles to build full size greenhouses. They will propagate plants for growing schemes in local schools and communities. The project will reduce the levels of plastic sent to landfill or polluting open spaces, and give young people an understanding of the impact of climate change.

Newcastle Emlyn Town Council will build an outdoor structure in collaboration with the community, to mark Her Majesty the Queen’s Jubilee. This £10,000 grant will fund building and design materials, and a water harvesting kit.

Messy Projects will use their £9,800 grant to run the activities and events they missed due to the pandemic. Activities will include celebrating the Queens platinum jubilee, a BBQ, and a Bonfire party.

John Rose, Wales Director at The National Lottery Community Fund, said “These groups play a vital role in supporting their communities and these grants will allow them to continue being there for people in future. 

 ”National Lottery players raise more than £30 million each week for good causes across the UK and the projects funded over the past month show the crucial difference players make through their tickets. I look forward to following all of their progress.”  

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