The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) has struck off a vet from the register this week, following his conviction and imprisonment for four counts of pet insurance fraud.
Matthew Douglas Morgan – originally from Australia – was convicted, upon his own confession, of dishonestly making false representations to make gain for himself/another or to cause loss to other/expose other to risk on July 22, 2013 at the Central Criminal Court. On August 23, he was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment.
The RCVS’ disciplinary committee (DC) heard that Mr Morgan – who was not present at the hearing, but represented by a solicitor – had taken out 18 insurance policies for veterinary cover, with four separate insurance providers – Direct Line, Pet Plan, Pet Protect and Sainsbury’s – in relation to a number of pets. Of these pets, only one, namely his pet cat, actually existed – the rest were fictitious.
The 50 claims – made between 13 November, 2009 and 21 December, 2012 – resulted in the companies making 54 payments to Mr Morgan, totalling £198,295. He was working for North Kent Referrals in Chatham, Kent, when he started making the claims, using the practice’s official stationery and stamps to fabricate invoices, clinical records and insurance claims. He continued to make fraudulent claims after leaving the practice, having taken the practice’s headed paper and stamp with him.
The DC said it “took into account” a number of “serious aggravating” factors when deciding the verdict of Mr Morgan’s case. These were:
- the very high degree of financial gain from the fraudulent activities
- the fact of 50 separate premeditated acts of dishonesty over a three-year period
- the betrayal of trust of his former employer and the insurance companies
- the potential reputational risk for his former employer
- the abuse of his position as a veterinary surgeon
- the fact that completion of insurance claims is an act of veterinary certification
In mitigation, the committee considered a letter from Mr Morgan, as well as three testimonials and representation from his legal representative. All cited that Mr Morgan was heavily in debt, had serious domestic difficulties and was suffering from depression when he committed the fraudulent activities. However, no medical evidence was submitted, said the DC, and it remained its decision to strike Mr Morgan off the register “to protect animal welfare and maintain public confidence in the profession“.
Chair of the DC and its vice-chairman Judith Webb said Mr Morgan’s conduct was “deplorable” and would “only undermine” public confidence in the profession.
“The respondent abused his position as a veterinary surgeon to perpetrate a deliberate long-term fraud on insurers for personal gain,” she said. “The DC is conscious that its role is not to punish, but to protect animal welfare and maintain public confidence in the profession.
“Due to the serious nature of the matters before it… the committee has no doubt the only suitable sanction is to direct the registrar to remove the respondent’s name from the register.”
For the full finding’s and decision from Mr Morgan’s case, visit the RCVS’ website.