A Schoharie County, N.Y. couple claim to have extremely bad luck when it comes to homes and automobiles but their woes seem to be self-created. James E. Papas, 48, of Gilboa, N.Y. and his wife, Charlene L. Papas, both stand accused of insurance fraud and deliberately setting their possessions ablaze.
Suspicion surrounding a homeowners’ claim filed by Mr. Papas for the loss of his mobile home led to an investigation by the New York State Insurance Department’s Fraud Bureau and the state’s Office of Fire Prevention and Control. The New York State Insurance Department reports that Mr. Papas told authorities he was ejected 35 feet from a bedroom window in his mobile home by the force of a propane explosion, which occurred in the early morning hours of Oct. 6, 2009.
After the incident, Mr. Papas drove himself to Cobleskill Regional Hospital, where he was treated for minor injuries. He later filed an insurance claim for the loss of the mobile home and received $2,000 through his homeowners’ insurance policy.
Unfortunately for the Papas family, a subsequent probe pinpointed the real origin of the fire. The explosion did not stem from a faulty furnace but rather from someone purposefully igniting the blaze. Investigators also learned that the homeowners’ insurance policy was scheduled to expire two days after the fire.
In light of these revelations, authorities arrested Mr. Papas, who, at press time, was being detained in lieu of $25,000 bail following arraignment. His arrest came just two weeks after that of his wife, who allegedly set her car on fire on Jan. 7, 2010 in the hope of securing an insurance payout. Mr. Papas faces charges of third-degree insurance fraud and third-degree arson, for which he could serve as many as 15 years in prison (if convicted). Mrs. Papas could face a similar fate, although specific details of her arrest and the pending charges against her have not yet been released.