By Isabel Hayes & Brion Hoban
A husband and wife who falsely tried to claim they had been injured in a car accident after the husband reversed into an off-duty garda driving a van have received fully suspended sentences.
Rene Cifra (34) was only 15 minutes into his new job as a food delivery man in May 2019 when he missed the house he was delivering to and decided to reverse down Griffith Avenue.
Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard that Cifra collided with a Mercedes van which was being driven by an off-duty garda and ended up writing off his car.
Cifra went on to claim to Liberty insurance that his wife had also been in the car at the time and they were both injured in the collision.
His wife, Olga Cifrova (31) also made the same claim, Detective Garda Dominic McGrath told the court.
Both Cifra and Cifrova, with an address in Watermint Court, Royal Canal Park, Ashtown, pleaded guilty to making a false and misleading personal injuries claim on dates between August 2019 and January 2020.
Neither have previous convictions and they are the parents of two young children, the court heard.
Passing sentence today, Judge Karen O’Connor said this was an “unsophisticated attempt at fraud” that has caused the accused a large degree of embarrassment.
Judge O’Connor said the case was aggravated by the premeditated behaviour on behalf of both accused, the fact that they were telling “blatant lies” and the impact on society of insurance fraud.
She noted that both had pleaded guilty in early course, were of previous good character and were both “clearly committed” to their children.
Judge O’Connor sentenced both Cifra and Cifrova to 15 months imprisonment, but suspended the entirety of the sentences on strict conditions.
At a previous sentencing hearing, Det Gda McGrath told Fiona McGowan BL, prosecuting, that Cifra reversed into the van on Griffith Avenue on May 27, 2019, when he was trying to find a house to deliver food to.
The van was being driven by an off-duty garda who had borrowed the van from a colleague.
Both men exchanged insurance details, with Cifra admitting at the scene that he had been at fault, the court heard.
A few months later, his insurance company – Allianz – paid a sum of €650 to the van owner.
Cifra was annoyed to hear the insurance company had made the pay-out without contacting him and viewed it as being found “guilty” in the accident, defence counsel said.
As a result, he filed a false claim of injury against the van owner’s insurance company, Liberty Insurance.
Cifra did not have good English and had already told gardaí his wife was present at the scene of the accident, in order to have a witness there.
The couple, who are originally from Slovakia, went to a solicitor where they both filed false personal injury claims.
They also visited a doctor in Cavan with the intention of getting medical documentation. The details of their fabricated injuries were not outlined in court.
As soon as the van owner was informed of the claim, he gave his insurance company the details of the accident, including the fact that Cifra’s wife was not in the car at the time.
Gardaí called to the couple’s home and Cifrova was arrested.
When questioned by gardaí, Cifrova pretended she had been present at the accident and drew a sketch of what happened, which was soon found to be totally different to what had actually occurred.
Cifra attended the gardaí later by appointment and admitted to fabricating the personal injury claim. Cifrova later admitted the same.
Deirdre Flannery BL, defending Cifrova, said this was a case that “would never have made it to the steps of the Four Courts, never mind the PIAB (Personal Injuries Assessment Board).”
She said Cifrova later described it as “the biggest mistake of her life”.
The court heard that Cifra has been living in Ireland since 2008, when he met Cifrova who moved here at the age of 15.
Both of their children were born here. They have both worked a number of minimum wage jobs.
Donncha Craddock BL, defending Cifra, said his client had just started a new job as a food delivery driver when the collision occurred.
He lost his job and wrote off the family car in the incident. He is currently working part-time as a cleaner.