Failed jewellery insurance fraud results in 18-month jail term

Efforts by Michael Darcy (36) to prove he bought €41,400 of jewellery lead to downfall

A man believed by insurance companies to have perpetrated significant frauds against them was jailed on Thursday after one of his scams unravelled.

Had the attempted fraud not been uncovered by Axa Insurance and the Garda Síochána, Michael Darcy (36), of Parkhill West in Tallaght, Co Dublin, would have netted €49,170, tax free.

Instead, Judge Martin Nolan sentenced him in the Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to 18 months' imprisonment following his guilty plea and after hearing evidence outlined by Det Garda Colin Rochford.

The genesis of the case against Darcy was a March 2012 house contents insurance policy he took out with Axa Insurance. At that time, Darcy sought to have included on the policy jewellery – an engagement ring and two bracelets – to the value of €35,000.


However, Axa sought proof of value, which Darcy then did not have, and so initially the policy did not include the jewellery. Over a year later, on June 7th, 2013, three items, supported by valuations supplied by a Dublin goldsmith, were entered onto the policy – an 18 carat gold ladies’ ring valued at €25,000, a ladies’ bracelet valued at €11,000, and a gents’ bracelet valued at €5,400 – a total of €41,400.

On July 9th, 2013, Darcy reported to Axa that there had been “malicious damage to front window of house”.

‘INLA thugs’

The company settled a claim for €973, but suspicions had been aroused, and when a newspaper reported that “INLA thugs” were allegedly targeting Darcy, Axa began questioning the prudence of continuing to insure his home.

On July 20th, 2013, Darcy told gardaí in Tallaght his house had been burgled on July 17th. Three days later, on July 23rd, Axa wrote to Darcy, telling him they were cancelling his insurance policy with effect from August 3rd.

Three days before that deadline, on August 1st, Darcy submitted a claim to Axa for €49,170, stating that €41,400 of the amount sought was accounted for by the allegedly missing items of jewellery.

The company immediately sought proof that Darcy had had the funds to buy the jewellery in the first place. It was Darcy’s efforts to prove that he had indeed bought the jewellery that led to his downfall.

He gave Axa a statement for an actual account in his name with AIB. According to the statement, on the date it was printed out, Darcy had €48,783.42 in the account – ample to pay for the jewellery.

However, when gardaí sent the statement to AIB, the bank was able to show that in truth, on the date in question, there was just €34.42 in the account.

Darcy had altered the document to show the fake amount: the transactions on the statement were real but the opening balance was not.

Purchase receipts

Equally, when asked to show from whom he had bought the jewellery, Darcy submitted purchase receipts, allegedly from a London jeweller. With the help of the Metropolitan Police, the London jeweller (since gone out of business but traced nonetheless) said the receipts were fakes; he had not sold Darcy the jewellery.

On December 8th, 2015, at 6.20am, gardaí raided Darcy’s house on foot of a search warrant and arrested him. The following February, a file was sent to the DPP, leading to charges that he presented a false instrument – the AIB statement – in support of what was a fraudulent claim against Axa.

According to insurance industry sources, Darcy has been associated with several staged car crash compensation claims. Two major players, Liberty Insurance and Zurich, were trying to build a case against him when he fell foul of Axa.

In October 2015, as gardaí planned their raid on his home, Darcy was pleading a personal injury claim before Judge Jacqueline Linnane in Dublin Circuit Court. Claiming to be one of eight passengers in a car involved in a crash, he withdraw his case after robust cross-examination on behalf of Axa.

Personal injury claims

The court heard he had six previous personal injury claims.

Since the failed stolen jewellery scam, Darcy had been active elsewhere, as Judge Nolan heard on Thursday. In May 2016, he was convicted at Waterford Circuit Court of theft the previous year.

Last year, he was sentenced to 14 months by a UK court for stealing in Newcastle-upon-Tyne. And last month, he was jailed for four months by Tullamore Circuit Court.

In a statement, Axa's fraud investigation manager Colm Featherstone praised gardaí and vowed to investigate all suspect claims and fight them if necessary.

In pleas of mitigation, it was suggested that Darcy had gone off the rails when his bouncy castle business went bust.

Peter Murtagh

Peter Murtagh

Peter Murtagh is a contributor to The Irish Times