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Ontario targets auto fraud with new prosecutors’ team


December 5, 2017   by Greg Meckbach, Associate Editor


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Auto insurance fraudsters are the target of a team of new and dedicated prosecutors and investigators announced by the Ontario government Wednesday.

The province said it plans to set up in the spring of 2018 what it calls the Serious Fraud Office (SFO), which will consist of a team of investigators, prosecutors and “specialist.” All will work in “one central location to address complex and large-scale frauds.”

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One initial focus will be on consumer protection measures related to auto insurance fraud, a Ministry of the Attorney General spokesperson wrote Tuesday in an email to Canadian Underwriter.

The early assignment and continuity of crown attorneys in large complex auto insurance fraud prosecutions was one of 38 recommendations made by the Auto Insurance Anti-Fraud Task Force in its final report, released in 2012.

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In the spring of 2014, the Ontario government committed to developing an office dedicated to investigating and prosecuting “serious fraud,” including fraudulent auto insurance claims.

“Once established, the Serious Fraud Office will create clear and transparent criteria to choose which cases it should investigate and prosecute,” the Ministry of the Attorney General spokesperson wrote in an email to Canadian Underwriter Tuesday. “The selection of cases will depend on a number of factors such as the dollar value and duration of the fraud, its impact on public institutions or the economy, the presence of organized crime, the level of sophistication, required expertise and available resources.”

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Neither the attorney general’s department nor the finance ministry specifically committed to hiring crown attorneys dedicated to auto insurance fraud.

The anti-fraud task force recommended in 2012 that “protocols” be established so that the Financial Services Commission of Ontario, the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board and Ontario Health Insurance Plan can share information on what they view as suspicious cases.

The task force also called for a change to the federal privacy law to remove “any undue limitations on the ability of insurers to pool claims information to combat fraud.”

With the passage of the federal Digital Privacy Act in 2015, the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act now permits the disclosure of personal information without the knowledge or consent of the person in certain cases. One of those cases is for the purpose of preventing, detecting or suppressing fraud.

In addition to the serious fraud office, the province announced Dec. 5 it plans to implement “standard treatment plans” for motor vehicle injuries such as sprains, strains and whiplash as well as setting up “independent examination centres” to assess auto accident victims’ injuries.