MANDEL: A bodybuilder accused of fraud loses his last battle

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If you’re wondering why we pay some of the highest insurance rates in the country, the answer might be found with the audacious sting of Project Bumper claiming to have uncovered auto repair fraud.

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But four years later, at least one of the body shops has still not been disciplined for its alleged wrongdoing.

In 2017, Aviva Insurance Canada installed hidden cameras inside ten vehicles, then intentionally damaged them in staged collisions to find out if body shops were ripping them out.

Aviva claims they were.

Aviva reported finding fraud in nine out of 10 cases with inflated billing for parts that weren’t needed or used and repairs never made. Even more shockingly, Aviva alleges that some of the stores even deliberately created additional damage and then charged for it.

One of the centers accused of fraud in the elaborate undercover investigation was McLaren Collision in Mississauga. Aviva had bought a 2010 Ford Fusion and a 2016 Chrysler 200 and damaged them as if they had been in collisions. They then asked an independent appraiser to assess the cost of the repairs.

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On May 8, 2017 and September 21, 2017, the cars were driven by private investigators hired by Aviva to pre-arranged locations, with the PIs posing as drivers who had just been in fender benders. The two damaged vehicles were then towed to McLaren Collision, which had been randomly selected from body shops that had repaired Aviva-insured vehicles in the past.

Once the cars were returned, they were again examined by independent experts to determine what had been done and what had not.

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In invoices given to W5, Aviva alleged that McLaren Collision Center billed the insurance company nearly $10,000 for repairs to the Chrysler, nearly double the independent valuation, and $4,888 for the Ford, with $1,877 in unjustified charges.

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According to legal documents, Aviva Canada sued McLaren in April 2018 for $100,000 for the cost of its undercover investigation and $200,000.00 in punitive damages, claiming the body shop replaced parts that didn’t need replacing, billed for work never done, and hidden camera footage allegedly showed they had “deliberately damaged” the Fusion by hitting the hood with a bar, which would require $515 in repairs .

McLaren denied all allegations and counterattacked. In 2019, they tried to have the lawsuit dismissed claiming that Aviva acted illegally by staging the damage caused by the vehicle’s collision and “trapping” them into their sting operation.

The judge declined to dismiss the lawsuit for several reasons, including “it is plain and obvious that Aviva’s conduct does not meet the standard of entrapment.”

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Aviva also reported McLaren to the insurance industry regulator, now called the Financial Services Regulatory Authority of Ontario (FSRA). In March 2020, he gave notice that he wanted to order McLaren to immediately stop working on any insurance repairs for a period of one year.

“McLaren Collision allegedly unfairly and deceptively overcharged an insurer for repairs to two cars and Fady Rony Warda and Rony Amanuel Warda allegedly damaged both cars while the cars were on McLaren property and charged the cost of repairing the damage to the ‘insurer,’ an FSRA spokesperson explained.

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McLaren requested a Financial Services Tribunal hearing to block the FSRA’s proposed order. They claimed Aviva’s investigation was a “criminal enterprise” and any evidence gathered should be discarded.

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It’s not illegal to hide video cameras in your car to catch fraud, Aviva countered, and while it’s illegal to record private communications, their devices didn’t record audio.

in a decision released this week, the court agreed and declined to dismiss the proposed order as an abuse of process.

“Aviva welcomes the court’s decision to allow FSRA’s action to continue. Due to ongoing litigation, we are unable to discuss the matter further,” a company spokesperson told The Sun in an email.

More than two years after the proposed penalty, the court is holding a hearing to determine whether the one-year ban should be imposed on McLaren.

No charges have been brought against Fady Rony Warda, Rony Amanuel Warda or McLaren and the allegations against them have not been proven.

McLaren owners and their lawyer could not be reached for comment.

A call to the Fewster Dr. store address was answered by a woman who said it was a different auto repair company called “MACC” and she didn’t know anyone named Warda.

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