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Jail for woman who swindled $76,000 in insurance payments

A Sri Lankan accountant who swindled an insurance company out of more than $75,000 was yesterday sentenced to 16 months' imprisonment.

Chadima Gangula Arachchige, 37, admitted dishonestly obtaining $76,297.08 from BF&M Insurance and attempting to obtain another $13,807.

The former HWP accountant submitted a claim to BF&M for the reimbursement of the cost of a surgery she supposedly received in Sri Lanka in January 2010.

She told the insurance company that she spent $35,120 for the surgery, and submitted an invoice and diagnosis card emblazoned with the hospital's letterhead.

BF&M reimbursed Arachchige with a $26,340 cheque, which she deposited in her bank account.

Over the following months, the accountant requested reimbursement for two other surgeries, receiving $23,525.50 and $18,574.69 from BF&M.

She also filed for a reimbursement under the name of an unknowing co-worker, Susantha Wijekoon, and received a cheque to the value of $7,884.19, which she deposited in her bank account.

The insurance company reportedly became suspicious after Arachchige submitted another claim for surgery, her fourth for a large amount in less than 18 months.

It was then revealed that the hospitals had no records of the surgeries performed, and immigration records revealed that Arachchige was on the Island on the date two of the surgeries allegedly took place.

Arachchige was arrested at LF Wade International Airport on August 20, trying to leave the Country after emptying her bank account.

Her lawyer, Saul Dismont, refuted claims that she was attempting to flee prosecution, saying that she was trying to attend the funeral of her uncle and visit her sick mother.

Mr Wijekoon was arrested on September 9, but denied any knowledge of the insurance claim. Arachchige later told police that he was completely innocent.

Mr Dismont told Magistrates' Court yesterday that Arachchige was trying to return the stolen money, but was encountering difficulties with the Sri Lankan Government.

Senior Magistrate Archibald Warner, described her offer to return the money as “empty”.

“She stole the people's money intending to permanently keep it and sent it away to a jurisdiction where it's difficult to retrieve it,” Mr Warner said.

“That defeats the whole idea of being willing to repay. The reality is she cannot pay. I'm not going to waste any more time on it.”

Mr Warner characterised the offence a “callous and sophisticated scheme”, sentencing Arachchige to 16 months' imprisonment for each count of dishonestly obtaining funds and six months for attempting to dishonestly obtain money.

All sentences were ordered to run concurrently starting from August 23.

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Published September 22, 2011 at 9:00 am (Updated September 21, 2011 at 2:01 pm)

Jail for woman who swindled $76,000 in insurance payments

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