Investigators determined that the explosion was an act of insurance fraud.
Three individuals conspired to intentionally ignite the home's natural gas supply in an effort to collect more than $300,000 in insurance proceeds. Two brothers were sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole; the one brother's girlfriend, who owned the house, received a plea deal.
Insurance fraud can be deadly.
Insurance fraud is not just an act of theft; as this case shows, it can be deadly. As a recent report by the Coalition Against Insurance Fraud states, "Insurance fraud hurts. Schemes carve a trail of ruined lives, damaged health and broken dreams."
The report shows how one professional arsonist was able to burn dozens of houses. He intimidated insurance company claim adjusters by pretending to take offense at their questions. He would threaten to complain about them to their bosses. He would target large insurance companies with overworked adjusters. He enlisted corrupt public adjusters to bundle claims together. If an insurance company did not inspect a home, he would fill it with cheap furniture, then submit inflated claims for the value of the lost property.
Arson is not the only form of insurance fraud. A criminal ring in Philadelphia staged fake slip-and-fall accidents on sidewalks in front of homes, collecting $400,000 from 21 insurers over seven years.
People are fighting back.
The homeowners in the Philadelphia case suspected wrongdoing and went to the district attorney. Following a two-year investigation, the DA's office was preparing to put the alleged ringleader on trial when the suspect committed suicide.
The CAIF is taking several approaches to raising awareness of the harm caused by insurance fraud. It is using video and infographics to illustrate the problem in ways that are visually interesting. It has also taken to social media, spreading its message on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other networks. Ads and other messages are also being tailored for display on mobile devices.
States are toughening their laws against insurance fraud. A new Minnesota law created the authority to fine medical practices that commit fraud and prohibit them from participating in the insurance system. A measure in Kentucky forbids health care providers and others from soliciting crash victims for 30 days following an accident. In New Jersey, lying about where a vehicle is garaged in order to reduce insurance premiums is now a crime.
Insurance fraud raises insurance premiums for law-abiding customers, ruins credit histories, causes injuries (sometimes severely), and in extreme cases costs people their lives. The perpetrators may want to believe they're just ripping off rich insurance companies, but they're hurting their families, friends, and neighbors. Fortunately, law enforcement and concerned citizens are working to put a stop to it.