When fire roared through a family’s Houston home, it seemed to be an obvious case of gasoline-started arson — and an ugly hate crime. Investigators found racial slurs and swastikas spray-painted on 14 walls. But prosecutors alleged that Samuel White torched the home himself in order to reap an insurance windfall and escape large mortgage payments that were no longer affordable.

This kind of home fire has insurance fraud fighters increasingly on high alert. With untold thousands of homeowners struggling with ballooning sub-prime mortgage payments, investigators are watching for a spike in arsons by those who can no longer afford their payments.

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