Image caption ( l-r crest ): Peter Yandell jailed for six years old, Michelle Yandell two years, Byron Yandell six years, Rachel Yandell five years, Gavin Yandell( l-r bottom ): Anthony Callaghan 27 months, his partner Jennifer Cosh three years

The phrase crash-for-cash first developed around 10 years ago and has now taken its residence in common parlance.

For the Yandell family from south Wales it became a occupation choice, a way of life.

Extending a crash-for-cash swindle as a business, police say they made up to 2m with staged crashes, whiplash harms, courtesy gondolas and reparations that simply never happened.

They started undetected for years due to the sheer number of parties they roped into the swindle, a broader range of appoints and places ensuring they remained for the purposes of the radar of insurance companies . And had it not been for Facebook – along with some good old fashioned idiocy – the possibilities are they would have got away with it .

For the past three years BBC Wales’ Week In Week Out current occasions program has followed the investigation self-assured exclusive access to those contributing it . Here is a view at the tenacity which exposed the length, bravery and at times flagrant folly of Wales’ enormous gondola disintegrate con .

Facebook can be a minefield. One unwarranted upright, one compromising photo could so easily spell the end of a vocation or leave a relationship in turmoil.

Facebook, as the Yandell family found out, can even property you in jail.

On the look of it, the Yandells were a reasonably regular household living in Blackwood, a moderately regular former mining municipality in south Wales, most famous for being the residence of boulder clique Manic Street Preachers.

In a duration before social media, Peter Yandell , now 53, set up a legitimate business – a back street garage announced St David’s Crash Repair.

In 2010, the younger of his two sons, Byron, 32, took it over. He caused it a new name – Easifix.

Easifix comprised of a large workshop and spraying bay inside a fenced combination strewn with vehicles in various states of dilapidation. As back street garages start, again, fairly unremarkable.

But the Yandells had diversified their business.

In precisely what lane would only be discovered by pure fortune.

Media captionCrash for money

Acting on a tip-off that a stolen car was being preserved there, Gwent Police arrived at Easifix on the evening of 2 August 2011.

They received the remaining the stolen car – a Renault Megane. It had been stripped down to its bare eggshell.

So the Yandells were involved in car theft. That much was clear.

Byron Yandell was arrested and the lawsuit passed on to a small squad of officers investigating a criminal mob embezzling quad, mountain and off-road bicycles.

A search of Easifix ensued and 20 -or-so other stolen vehicles were identified. All that remained of some were registration plates and tax discs.

That was likely to have been the fullest extent of the investigations until, that was, an officer recognized across a single sheet of paper among dunes of Easifix paperwork.

“Someone came up to me and read ‘Sarge, have a look at this’, ” supposed Detective Sergeant Andy Cullen who led a squad of five investigators on the case.

“He handed me a piece of paper. On it were written words to the effect of ‘what to say to the insurance company’.”

Alarm bells started ringing.

What started with a call about a stolen automobile, embarked spiralling into a highly-complex investigation – entitled Operation Dino – which would uncover Wales’ biggest and “highly organised” motor insurance fraud.

Next week the final five people involved are due to be sentenced.

In total over the past five years, 83 people have been found guilty – 81 on scheme to defraud and two for fraud – and have received convicts ranging from six years in jail to hung prison terms.

“There’s such a variety of people involved in this from nans to unemployed people to those with professional, respectable jobs and an dreadful mint to misplace, ” pronounced DC Jon Parkinson.

“There’s a core of people who are pushing it – the Yandells mainly. For quite a lot of them it’s gluttony, easy money, a tried-and-tested defraud , good-for-nothing to worry about.

“On the flip-side there are some people who were talked into it by greedy family members.

“They told their nan or aunty, ‘You don’t even have to say anything, just to be signed and there’s a little bit of money in it for you’.

“Some of these people are previously of good character and I think some of them have stupidly gone dragged into it.”

So, how did it all begin? It is unsure exactly when the Yandells fraud tasks date back to but police are certain it goes back many years .

Image copyright Gwent Police
Image caption Police speak Michelle and Peter Yandell paid 1900 for this vacation – the exact amount Michelle had just triumphed in damages for a disintegrate that never happened

“Originally they’d tried got a couple of collisions to get a bit of additional money, ” mentions DC Jon Parkinson. “They realised there was a lot of fund to be made.”

The Yandells likewise realised that insurance companies would soon become suspicious if the same refers continued cultivating up on claims.

To get around this, they began roping in pals and other family members.

The more epithets and address involved, the less threat there was of insurance company impostor investigators smelling a rat.

It operated something like this:

1) The Yandells and their accompanies would fabricate gondola collisions in which one defendant would pose as the non-fault motorist

2) The at-fault vehicle would either have high-mileage or be mechanically problematic. No loss as it was worth more as a write-off and money could be made by removing roles, headlamps, gearboxes

3) The non-fault party then defers an policy claim for damage to their vehicle, personal injury, politenes automobile, gate-crash reparations and so on

4) The Yandells would submit fraudulent politenes vehicle and mend invoices to insurers

5) Other family members and friends or friends-of-friends would then be roped into the spate. They agreed to lie and say they were in the car at the time

6) A commotion of cheques follow wandering from anything between 10 k to 40 k per collision – new gondolas, personal injury payouts, kindnes vehicle indicts and bogus repair legislations

But the accident had never happened. So, before any auditors arrived from insurance companies, the Yandells had to make sure the cars ogled appropriately smashed up.

The gang would damage gondolas with mallets, or drive autoes into each other just outside Easifis compound.

On another moment, one of the mob is met purposely driving a Property Rover into a forklift truck, having remembered to remove lighter fitteds and other toiling segments beforehand.

When a convincing sum of damage is done to the 4×4, Peter and his son can be manually distributing the breath suitcases, which automatically writes off a vehicle , no questions asked.

If the vehicle had a pre-accident value of 5,000, in its detriment state that would fall to just 1,000. The insurance company would pay out 4,000 and the accident “victim” would get to keep the car to sell as salvage.

But the Yandells would tie the car up themselves, sometimes using the divisions they took off private vehicles before it was damaged, sometimes exploiting places from embezzled cars. The automobile would be sold on, as good as new.

‘Tip of iceberg’

Another detective on the team, Sara Morris, says they made around 750,000 purely from the cases which contacted courtroom.

“This is not includes the embezzle vehicles. Even then I think that was the tip of the iceberg, ” she speaks.

“We think this group of people, the Yandell family, incurred damages from insurers of up to 2m. “

But back in August 2011, this was all hitherto to be discovered.

The article entitled “What to tell the insurance company” was a big clue for the police that the Yandells criminality provided beyond automobile theft. But how would they attest it ?

The firstly port of call for detectives was the two accident administration business Easifix employed.

Accident management business( AMCs) are lawful mediators who can be contacted by a move “whos not” at fault. They will handle insurance policies demand, fixings, personal injury aid and provide a like-for-like politenes car.

Media captionOnline crash wales

These conglomerates came about in the 1980 s to deal with the problem of innocent motorists having to pay upfront for a substitution gondola after a crash, and wait weeks or months to be reimbursed by the at-fault party’s insurer.

The companionships used by the Yandells confirmed to police that they had processed 71 separate contends.

That is maybe not that surprising, given the Yandells were in the crash repair business.

Should a lawful collision casualty draw their damaged auto to them, why wouldn’t they direct them to an AMC?

It was in the driver’s interest and more to the moment the Yandells were paid up to 500 for each referral they made to the AMCs.

“On one hand maybe the number of collisions wasn’t surprising but then looking at the number of vehicles in the garage, I thought that may be a bit low-grade, ” announces former DS Andy Cullen, who led such investigations before he retired in 2011.

The books did not add together either.

“There was something strange about Easifix, ” Mr Cullen adds.

“It appeared to be handling an horrendous lot of work for family members or friends, the accounts established very little money “re going through” them but there were an horrid pile of damaged vehicles and clang personas around the premises. It looked like it was a very busy garage but not making any fund. Something wasn’t including up.

“They literally appeared to be a business based on family and friends, a wholly unsustainable business, you would think.”

Police soon established that the Yandells were not working alone. Another reputation – Callaghan – kept cropping up in the paperwork.

“It was clear the Callaghans, two brothers and one of their lovers, were bring back parties from Cardiff and Caerphilly and the Yandells were bringing in people from the Blackwood area, ” responds DC Jon Parkinson.

“If you enlarge the associates, obligate the pool a little bigger, it looks less suspect.”

Everyone involved in the “accidents” contended they were random episodes; that they did not know the people in the other vehicle.

The key to the police probe was to prove they were lying. And this is where Facebook came in.

“I don’t think they ever expected us to go to into the magnitude that we did by experimenting all of the social media, ” announces DC Sara Morris.

Any Facebook user, if they find themselves honest, will be familiar with the practice of so-called ‘Facebook stalking’.

Image caption Michelle Yandell claimed she was so ill after a crash she took to her bed for 2 day. Facebook exposed she was in fact at her son’s marriage

DC Morris set about doing precisely the same stuff. Scrutinizing public info from image, poles, likes, comments and times to demonstrate linked with the believes and build a robust action.

“I found images on people’s notes who weren’t patently connected, ” DC Morris explains.

“But they had posted photos of bridals, nighttimes out and christenings which demonstrated many of these mortals knew each other.

“One claim involved Byron Yandell and a woman in one vehicle and they claimed to have a crash with three other people. They said they didn’t know each other.

“By experimenting Facebook and finding pictures of Byron’s wedding, we have photos which present quite clearly that they all listened Byron’s wedding.

“Another claim implied Patrick Callaghan and the status of women. She tried to state they didn’t know one another.

Image copyright Gwent Police
Image caption Michelle Yandell on holiday with Peter just after claiming she was badly pained in an ‘accident’

“But we detected an likenes evidencing they had attended the same christening. You could see Patrick outside the church and in the background was the woman.”

Anyone could have deemed these scenes – the Yandells’ pals and associates had unwittingly connected the dots for the police by posting photos on public Facebook pages.

But for private individuals, it was a lawsuit of what was not posted on Facebook that prepared alarm bells echoing.

“One woman lived her entire life on social media, ” lends DC Morris.

“She put down what she was having to eat, what she was doing on a daily basis and I would have thought that if she had smashed up her 11,000 BMW, she would have set it on her social media account.

Image copyright Gwent Police
Image caption Hill-walking on holiday at a time she told doctors she was suffering from crash-induced injuries

“She didn’t. This raised suspicion that these crashes hadn’t actually occurred.”

Facebook too shed light on the inducements behind these violations.

“By looking at social media, “its become” quite significant that conflicts existed most frequently when there was a major event coming up, such as Byron and Rachel Yandell’s wedding, ” added DC Morris.

The gang, it seems, was forging clangs to prescribe and using the payouts to fund clas parties, christenings and holidays.

As well as posting incriminating testify online, the Yandells and their associates too afforded the police a right hand by filming themselves smashing up gondolas. Criminal conceives they were not.

“They were ingenious and stupid in equal evaluate, ” adds Andy Cullen.

“You’re clever if you stay for the purposes of the radar but you’re terribly stupid if you film the criminality you’re to participate in. They had CCTV at their garage which has been an improbably effective investigation tool for us.”

Ironically, the security cameras the Yandells had set was to protect their business from other criminals.

DC Mike Adams was appointed the arduous capacity of sitting through 2,600 registers of footage, each around 1 hour long.

He recognized two conflicts which had been intentionally staged, which proved that the “accidents” later claimed for through an AMC were utterly fraudulent.

“Collisions were alleged to have happened on particular dates but CCTV testifies two Audis in questions being detriment 2 days later, ” responds DC Adams.

“The fraud is not just about the collisions. “Theres” extra layers of deceit by claiming for storing and improvement of vehicles and for a hire vehicle.

“One car is on paper as being hired out as a courtesy gondola but it never leaves the Easifix compound. There is a question over whether it was possible to even be driven as it’s moved around on a trolley jack.”

The CCTV too shows the Yandells and their cohorts frequently driving a Estate Rover into a forklift truck. They afterwards claimed it had been involved in a crash a couple of miles away.

Image caption The functioning could go on to investigate further motor insurance pretensions

“During interviews after their apprehend we asked them to give an account of their involvement in collisions, their work at the premises, why they called so often, its relation to one another, what they knew about Easifix, if they’d is participating in embezzling any vehicles, ” Mr Cullen says.

“The vast majority pronounced, ‘No comment’.

“It was actually very helpful because we now knew which space we had to go as a squad and how much extent we had to go into to prove them wrong.

“They were very confident that we wouldn’t get there. But that gave us the incentive to move forward.”

The first ordeal – of Peter, Byron, Michelle, Rachel and Gavin Yandell and Jennifer Cosh, collaborator of Anthony Callaghan – started in October 2014.

“Before the trial, I was quite nervous, ” tells DC Sara Morris.

“I knew we had a lot of devastating proof against them but you have been able never read a jury.”

Only two of the Yandells – Byron and his wife Rachel – contributed manifestation in their own defense. It turned out to be a disastrous move.

“It was humiliating to watch, ” supposes DC Morris.

“The prosecuting barrister tied them up in knots. The lies that were coming out, the latter are tripping themselves up constantly.”

It closed the spate for the prosecution. All were found guilty of conspiracy to defraud and sentenced between two and six years old in prison.

‘1 00 more’

A further 75 sentences followed. The sentencing of the final five is due next week, closes a five-year section for the investigative team.

But that is not the end of the story.

Gwent Police are pretty sure around 100 more people are concerned.

Phase 2 of the Operation Dino has been given the go ahead so they say there is going to be a few people who thought they had “re going away” with it, examining over their shoulders once more.

It was the most difficult assurance hoax Wales has ever seen. But if that was not enough, BBC Wales can reveal that Michelle and Peter Yandell were also indicted for assistance fraud.

They had both falsely claimed tens of thousands of pounds for care and mobility allowances.

The case against them was not prosecuted because they were going to prison anyway.

Week In Week Out: Wales’ Great Car Crash Con – Friday, 22 January, at 21:00 GMT on BBC One Wales

Video editing: Philip John

Additional reporting: Delyth Lloyd


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