A FRIDGE engineer was caught trying to claim nearly £1million for a work accident after he was spotted playing rugby.
David Ribchester, of the John F Kennedy Estate in Washington, told specialists he was no longer able to take part in the sport, play the drums for his band, or even carry his infant daughter.
The 31-year-old’s lawyers drew up a schedule of costs for his and his daughter’s care which totalled £923,000.
But private detectives hired by the insurance company filmed him driving, training with his local rugby team and carrying his daughter. His claim for the genuine injury was eventually reduced to just £25,000 after costs, the Old Bailey heard.
Judge Nicholas Cooke QC said these crimes were now a “big problem” as Ribchester pleaded guilty to the fraud yesterday. He added: “This sort of offending is said to be endemic. You have done the right thing pleading guilty, and you will receive full credit for that. Unfortunately offending of this type is a big problem and that means I have to deal with it severely. You must prepare yourself for
the fact a prison sentence is on the cards. It is a type of offending which is causing a great deal of problems.’
Ribchester originally handed in a basis of plea to the charge which accused his lawyers, Paul D’Ambrogio Solicitors of Chester, of ‘encouraging him’ to put in an exaggerated claim.
But he withdrew the allegations after the judge said he would not be able to sentence on that basis without hearing evidence.
The judge added: “The basis of plea makes serious allegations against a firm of solicitors, that they have effectively been guilty of misleading the court.”
Ribchester was referred to the firm by his sister, a qualified solicitor, the court heard.
Outside court, the prosecutor James Byrne said Ribchester might have been awarded as much as £250,000 if his claim had been successful.
Ribchester injured both wrists after falling off a ladder while working for the trailer company Schmitz Cargobull in North Road, Harelaw, County Durham.
He has now admitted exaggerating the extent of his injuries over a three year period between February, 9, 2006, and January 12 last year.
Mr Byrne said: “He had genuine injures. He saw the opportunity to take money and he grossly exaggerated his injuries.”
Ribchester claimed he would not be able to care for his daughter properly and needed nursing care because of his pain as a result of the injury.
He also said his life was affected by being unable to drive, play rugby, play drums for his band or even hold his daughter in his arms.
The case was investigated by the Insurance Fraud Enforcement Department of City of London Police.
Ribchester, formerly of Cricklewood Road, Sunderland, is on bail on condition he lives with his parents in Washington.
He will now be sentenced on June 27.