New York
First-Degree Stupidity

A New York man is under fire for committing arson to collect on his insurance policy. Donald Kropp, 33, set fire to a downstairs bedroom in his family’s home in July to collect on the $500,000 insurance policy held on the house. The two-story frame sustained heavy smoke, water, and fire damage, but the majority of the damage was limited to the first floor — thanks to the work of an estimated 75 firefighters who were called in.

No one was home at the time of the fire, so there were no injuries to the family. Two of the firefighters, however, were not so lucky. The firefighters were injured while fighting the blaze, adding two counts of second-degree assault to Kropp’s list of charges. Other charges include third-degree arson, second-degree insurance fraud, and first-degree reckless endangerment. Following his arraignment, Kropp was remanded to the Otsego Correctional Facility in lieu of $10,000 bail, and will return to court for trial.

Crash Cash

Traffic can be hard to stand, but two suspects threw fraud in the mix, and now it’s a real lock-up.

According to a recent investigation, Yvonne Smith, 44, and Emanuel Parker, 24, staged a vehicle accident in Augusta, Ga., last spring. After renting a U-Haul, Parker claimed to have accidentally rear-ended Smith’s vehicle, in which Smith, her daughter, and her five-year-old granddaughter were traveling.

Not only did the duo put themselves, Parker’s family, and anyone else on the road in danger, but they also wanted cash for the crash. Smith and Parker submitted a claim to the insurer of U-Haul that, had it been paid, would have totaled $23,000. During the investigation, Smith revealed that this was not the first time he had staged an accident; in 2006, he collected $10,000 after he used another U-Haul to create a crash.

As of July 28, both Smith and Parker had been charged with reckless conduct and giving false statements, the penalty for which is two to 10 years in prison, and/or a fine of up to $10,000.

Unlucky Strike

It’s been said that lightning doesn’t strike twice in the same place, but as Earl Scott found, that’s not the case with fraud charges.

The North Carolina man claimed to hear a loud boom, after which his plasma television, Blu-ray player, and other high-end electronics failed to work. Following this, Scott turned in work orders from a repair company and filed a claim for $33,971.91 in total lightning damages.

On Sept. 25, 2009, police arrested Scott for insurance fraud. As it turns out, the repair company had been the product of Scott’s own little brainstorm, and the work orders he sent to back his claim were from a company that does not exist. At least he made it easier on investigators, though, as the false company documents were sent through his own post office box.

Scott has been charged with two counts of insurance fraud and two counts of obtaining property by false pretense. He is being held at Wake County Jail under a $20,000 bond. Even in the case of his charges, when it rains — it pours.

Lapse Into Larceny

A San Jose, Calif. resident is learning the hard way that crime doesn’t pay. On Oct. 7, 2009, Tony Lu was booked at the Santa Clara County Jail on $20,000 bail and charged for falsely reporting his car stolen in November 2008.

In a press release, Commissioner Steve Poizner noted that Lu faces charges such as filing a false motor vehicle claim, perjury, and falsely reporting a crime. Lu’s lapse in judgment and the related penalties should serve as a cautionary tale to would-be scammers in the state.

The trouble began for Lu on Oct. 16, 2008, when he reported his 1999 Toyota 4-Runner as stolen to the San Jose Police Department. He insisted that the SUV was swiped from a San Jose eatery and filed a claim with Sentry Insurance. That very same day, the police recovered the vehicle. In November 2008, Sentry contacted the Department of Insurance after examining the suspicious claim.

After rendering conflicting statements to the county’s auto theft task force and Sentry as to the whereabouts of his vehicle, Lu withdrew his claim altogether. No dollar amount was actually paid, but the damage had been done. The CDI investigation revealed that Lu allegedly attempted to use his vehicle as collateral for a private loan before reporting it stolen.

The Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office is currently prosecuting this case.