Stuart Gentry, 40, director of a solar energy company, claimed his Range Rover was struck by another car at a remote junction in Hampshire in March 2013. He is pictured outside the High Court
A company director has been hit with a £150,000 court bill after staging a fake road accident with a cross-country running pal.
Stuart Gentry, 40, director of a solar energy company, claimed his Range Rover was struck by another car at a remote junction in Hampshire in March 2013.
The driver of the other vehicle, Lee Miller, said he had swerved to avoid a deer and smashed into Gentry’s car, writing off both vehicles.
Gentry later launched a £75,000 insurance claim, seeking damages for whiplash injuries, the write-off of his car and the cost of hiring a replacement.
He claimed he did not know Mr Miller, but insurers smelt a rat when investigators realised that the pair were actually Facebook friends.
In fact, they had known each other for some years and competed together in cross-country running events, a judge said.
The two men had staged the accident so that Gentry could claim compensation for a car which had actually been damaged long before, said Mr Justice Teare.
Gentry, of Basingstoke, had then put forward an ‘elaborate lie’ about not previously knowing Mr Miller ‘in circumstances where the collision had been staged’.
Handing him a suspended jail term and ordering he pay about £20,000 damages to the insurer, he said Gentry was guilty of a ‘serious’ contempt of court.
‘Of course, it is possible for two friends to suffer a collision when driving their respective cars,’ said the judge.
‘It would however be a striking and unlikely coincidence.’
He added: ‘The only credible explanation for the steps both drivers took to hide their friendship is that they knew that it was a staged collision and that to reveal that they were friends would give the game away.’
On top of the damages, Gentry was also ordered to pay the legal costs of the case – which lawyers expect will to take his bill to more than £150,000.
The High Court heard the two men had claimed the accident took place at the junction between Folly Farm and the A399, near Basingstoke, on March 17, 2013.
Claims were made by both men and a passenger in Gentry’s car, with £14,000 paid out to Gentry for the value of his written-off vehicle.
However, other payments were halted after the insurer – UK Insurance Ltd – became suspicious of the relationship between the two men.
In a statement, Gentry claimed he had spoken to Mr Miller at the scene and that they then became friends after Mr Miller told him of the death of his infant son.
They had gone on to run together in races, raising money for a cot death charity, he claimed.
But the judge said online inquiries revealed that they had known each other for some time and even ran together in a race the day before the alleged smash.
Defending a court claim of ‘deceit’ by the insurer, Gentry said he lied about not knowing Mr Miller because he did not want to slow down his ‘genuine’ claim.
But ruling on the case, Mr Justice Teare found that Gentry ‘chose to lie’ and to deny that their friendship pre-dated what was actually a ‘staged’ smash.
‘It may be said that to stage a collision and make a false claim requires boldness on the part of the fraudster,’ he continued.
‘But Mr Gentry has shown himself to be a bold liar.’
In using the death of Mr Miller’s son in an attempt to hide their friendship, Gentry had constructed a ‘particularly bold lie’, he said.
He added: ‘I am persuaded that the accident was staged.
‘If a motive is required it is that Mr Gentry wished to recover something in respect of substantial damage carried by his car – and which had led to it being little used in the previous year – and, for whatever reason, was
unable to recover from his own insurers in respect of that damage.
‘Mr Miller was willing to assist his friend because his vehicle was very old and worth very little.’
Gentry, who earns £50,000-a-year and makes substantial bonuses, was ordered to pay his bill at a rate of £1,250-a-month.
His nine-month jail term was suspended for two years.
The judge said Mr Miller, who was not in court to put forward his side of the story, had not been traced.
But speaking to the London Evening Standard, Mr Miller said that the crash was a genuine coincidence.
He added: ‘I loved that car actually, I was gutted that it crashed,’ he said.
Mr Miller added he had never tried to hide his friendship with Gentry from the insurers, but they have since fallen out.
‘We’re not mates any more,’ he said. ‘I haven’t seen him for years now.’