A man who claimed that a broken ankle he sustained when he fell off his bike was due to a pothole and demanded £175,000 in compensation from Cardiff City Council has been jailed for three years and six months for fraud by false representation.
Luboya Tshibangu, aged 38, instructed solicitors to take legal action against Cardiff City Council, falsely claiming that the injury had happened when he hit a pothole on the pavement while riding along Bute East Dock in Cardiff Bay in December 2012.
In an initial claim lodged in October the following year, he sent the council a map of the alleged location together with photographs of the pavement.
His claim was declined in May 2014 under section 58 of the Highways Act 1980, with the council saying that a schedule of maintenance and upkeep had been in place.
In May 2016, the council were served with a claim by solicitors acting for Tshibangu, along with proof of earnings and medical records, with a sum of £175,000 being sought.
In December that year, he signed a statement in which he claimed that the incident happened between lampposts 13 and 14 on Atlantic Wharf, once again accompanied by photos of the defects of the pavement.
His attempted fraud was uncovered when solicitors for the council obtained a recording of the 999 call a passer-by had made when Tshibangu had his accident and discovered that it happened some 950 metres from the location where he claimed it took place.
The caller also said that the ground was slippery where he came off his bike but did not mention any defects in the surface.
In March last year, the council’s insurers passed the case to the City of London Police’s Insurance Fraud Enforcement Department (IFED).
They interviewed Tshibangu in Cardiff in July 2017, with their investigation concluding that while he had genuinely fallen from his bike and broken his ankle, it had not happened where he claimed it did and was due to a slippery pavement rather than a defect.
Detective Constable Justin Hawes of the IFED said: “Tshibangu used a genuine injury in an attempt to lay blame with the council.
“This blatant attempt at deception was spotted and the work of IFED with the council and its legal team has enabled us to put a stop to Tshibangu’s crime.
“Legitimate injuries should never be seen as an excuse to misplace blame or inflate circumstances in a bid to make money.
“False insurance claims increase the costs for all insurance holders by driving up premiums,” he added.
“The result here shows that IFED takes these crimes very seriously and will put a stop to them.”
Cardiff City Council’s cabinet member for finance, modernisation and performance, Councillor Chris Weaver, said: “This is a case where someone has sadly had an accident and hurt themselves and tried to lay blame on the council illegally.
“Fraud is a serious offence and I hope this case sends a clear message that these matters are investigated and if false claims are made, we will work with the relevant authorities to bring these matters to court.”
Tshibangu was sentenced at Cardiff Crown Court today.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.