Evidence

Tipped Authorities Charge 20 in Fire Insurance Fraud, Say That Defendants Reused Same Sooty Items


It’s ordinarily hard to prove a fire insurance fraud. But prosecutors in a South Florida case will be able to rely on photographic evidence that the claimed perpetrators reused the same thrift-store furniture in claim after claim.

The Miami New Times Riptide blog includes several examples of seemingly identical furniture—and, in one case, a seemingly grouping of photos in a frame—shown in photos supporting different fire claims.

Authorities, who reportedly were tipped about the claimed $1.4 million renter’s insurance scam, arrested 20 people Wednesday, including a public adjuster. The group is accused of using “straw renters” to pose as legitimate occupants of homes that were allegedly filled with thrift store items and burned to support fraudulent claims. Candles—a leading cause of residential blazes—purportedly caused at least some of the fires.

“How emboldened could you get?” said Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernández Rundle in comments reported by the Miami Herald. “They wouldn’t even get new furniture. They’d take the same furniture they just filed the claim on, rent another house and put the same furniture that’s already been destroyed into the next house. They didn’t try to hide it at all.”

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