A $200,000 patio cover?

Liberty Mutual didn’t think so either. An investigation revealed the patio cover’s actual worth, about $4,000, leading to insurance fraud and attempted theft charges for a Spokane, Wash. man.

Keith R. Scribner, 47, was arraigned Dec. 12 in Spokane County Superior Court. In late July 2009, Scribner’s mother, Marilyn Warsinske, filed a claim with Liberty Mutual insurance. She said a patio roof at a home she had purchased collapsed because of the weight of snow about six months earlier.

The policy covered “like kind and quality” replacement. She told Liberty Mutual that her son would handle the claim. Scribner told the insurer that the patio cover was an extensive structure, spanning the entire length of the patio and wrapping around the home’s chimney.

Upon inspecting the site, claims officials wondered why there was no flashing or holes in the masonry. Scribner suggested that the house painters must have made repairs. He sent the insurance company three bids, ranging from $195,586 to $213,815, to replace the cover based on his description.

When claims officials asked for photos of the roof prior to the damage or after it collapsed, Scribner said he didn’t have any. When officials asked about a possible appraisal of the home, suggesting such a report could include photos, Scribner claimed the property had never been appraised.

A claims handler, however, discovered an aerial photo of the home on a real estate website. It showed a much smaller patio cover than Scribner had described. The company launched a fraud investigation.

A real estate agent interviewed by investigators described the cover as being “small and nothing special or significant.” Additionally, there had been a home appraisal and it included photos. In fact, Scibner had met with the appraiser.

The home’s previous owner also provided photographs. The patio cover was originally canvas. When that became troublesome to remove each year, the previous owner bought a polycarbonate cover. It cost about $300.

An architect told a state fraud investigator that he’d met with Scribner in 2008, months before the snow collapse, to discuss plans to replace the deck cover with new, larger one.

Further, a local company provided with measurements and photographs of the original structure drew up replacement bids at the request of a state fraud investigator. The bids: $3,913 and $4,782.