A Sheffield couple have been ordered to repay almost £10,000 after making sham insurance claims for real and non-existent dogs they said had cancer.
Trained accountant Chelsea Stafford and her husband Stellio made nine false claims on two More Th>n policies between December 2013 and May 2014, making a total of £8,358.50.
They said three Staffordshire Bull Terriers - only one of which actually existed - had contracted cancer.
To make their claims for their dog Buster and two fictitious pooches named Angel and Winston appear authentic, they sent forged invoices from a local veterinary practice detailing the animals’ illnesses and the veterinary treatment received.
Chelsea cashed in one of the payouts at a cheque cashing service and then called the insurer requesting they cancel it claiming she had lost her purse with the cheque inside and was worried her twin sister would find it and cash it.
But she had not lost the cheque and has no twin sister.
In April 2014, More Th>n identified the claims as fraudulent and called in City of London Police.
When officers visited the couple’s home, Mrs Stafford originally refused to let the officers in, claiming she was called Kelsea Stubbins.
The pair were subsequently charged with, and pleaded guilty to, conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation.
The pair, who are both 25 and live on Oaks Fold Road, Shiregreen, were each sentenced at Sheffield Crown Court today to a 12-month custodial sentence suspended for 18 months and a 180 hour unpaid work order.
They will also have repay a total of £8,358.50 to the insurer, £1,042.17 to the cheque cashing service, £350 court costs and a £200 fee.
City of London Police Detective Constable Paula Doyle, who ran the investigation, said: “Chelsea and Stellio Stafford systematically defrauded their insurer to get thousands of pounds they were not entitled to.
“Their greed knew no bounds, with the pair even making claims for dogs that did not exist.
“Chelsea drew on her accountancy knowledge to produce authentic-looking invoices for veterinary treatment but their lack of simple medical knowledge contributed to their downfall.”
Adele Sumner, head of fraud intelligence at More Th>n, said: “This is a shocking case of fraud. It highlights the lengths that people will go to exhort money from their insurers.
“At MORE TH>N we take all forms of insurance fraud seriously. Far from being a victimless crime it pushes up premiums for honest customers.
“We will continue to investigate and prosecute all fraudulent claimants and welcome the sentences and penalties that courts are now handing down. We hope these act as an effective deterrent to would be insurance fraudsters.”
The sentence handed to Stellio also covered a separate offence of being in possession of an offensive weapon, namely a baseball bat, in relation to a South Yorkshire Police case.