Ten outrageous home insurance fraudsters

A picture of a ruined home
In fariness, there are far better get-rich-quick schemes than wrecking your own home
"Nicholas Di Puma decided to set his home and car ablaze to cash in on his insurance policies"
  • | by Rachel England

Home insurance fraud is on the rise according to the Association of British Insurers, which says that over 70,000 deceitful claims were detected in 2010.

Insurance fraud of any kind carries some pretty harsh penalties, so you’ve got to be desperate to take the risk. This lot certainly were...

10) The family of many claims

No doubt, home insurance policies are there to provide homeowners with peace of mind in the event that bad luck strikes, but one unnamed family really pushed the boundaries of plausibility by putting in more than 100 claims for damage to their home.

Alleged storm damage to roofs and exterior damage caused by (conveniently) ‘untraceable’ cars were just some of the claims on the family’s list.

Instead of quitting while they were ahead the family persevered with their fraud spree, before being discovered by investigators and subsequently sentenced to 15 months’ jail time each.

9) Nicholas Di Puma

If you’re planning on committing home insurance fraud, it makes sense to have a plausible story in place, right?

Not important to Nicholas Di Puma from New York, who decided to set his home and car ablaze to cash in on his insurance policies. In the aftermath, he told investigators that the fire started when pans on the stovetop caught alight.

Di Puma then claimed he tried to extinguish the fire using rags, and by throwing the pans out the back door – which just so happened to ‘conveniently’ land in the backseat of his convertible.

Officials were less-than-impressed with this story, and Di Puma quickly found himself under the long arm of the law.

8) Michael Paul Schook

It’s probably also a good idea to keep schtum about your plans to commit insurance fraud, but this was only a minor consideration for Michael Paul Schook.

The Connecticut-based ex-con was in massive debt, so set his house on fire to get hold of $250,000 insurance money. Too bad he’d told pretty much anyone who’d listen about his plans, including his kids, who told their classmates, who told school officials and them, bam, Schook received a tidy pay out of seven years in prison.

7) Juan Jose Luna

Despite redeveloping his home at great expense, Californian Juan Jose Luna believed he would make more money by burning it down than selling it.

Completely clueless as to the logistics of arson, Luna used a flammable accelerant to ensure the job was done properly, but used so much that the house literally exploded instead. He was found wandering the streets with horrific injuries, and after his recovery in hospital was sent straight to prison.

6) Victor and Olga Barriere

Victor and Olga Barriere’s Californian home was in a bad state of disrepair, but instead of rolling up their sleeves and getting stuck in with some good old fashioned elbow grease, the pair decided to hire someone to simply burn the dilapidated wreck to the ground instead.

What they didn’t know, however, was that the man they hired, Thomas Trucios, was not a trained arsonist but just a local handyman. Trucios suffered fatal injuries after accidentally pouring gasoline on himself as he set the house ablaze, and the Victor and Olga were sent to prison for attempted fraud, narrowly avoiding a murder charge.

5) Lewis Drayton

Lewis Drayton’s family was drowning in debt, so in a bid to keep the bailiffs at bay he decided to burn down the family home and pocket the insurance money.
Sadly, his grandmother was still inside the building when he set fire to it and she died amid the flames. Drayton initially blamed his uncle for starting the fire, but with his uncle actually serving time in prison his story didn’t wash with the police, and Drayton went down for arson, attempted fraud and murder.

4) Jeffrey Alnut

New York businessman Jeffrey Alnut had made some bad decisions over the years and decided the solution lay in torching one of his buildings in order to collect the proverbial insurance payout.

Amazingly, he completely failed to consider the tenants living inside the building, causing the death of one resident after she ran into the flaming inferno to save her cat. At his subsequent trial, he showed no remorse for his actions, and was jailed for years.

3) Marc Thompson

An investment executive from Chicago, Marc Thompson was struggling to finance his lavish lifestyle. His solution, like everyone’s on this list, was to set fire to his house with the view to reaping a big payout from his insurance company ($730,000 in Thompson’s case).

The only snag was finding someone to frame. He eventually decided his 90-year-old mother should take the fall, placing her in the basement of the house – alive – before covering everything in lacquer and setting the building on fire, so it looked like she’d committed suicide. Thompson did indeed collect some money from his home insurance policy, but further investigation quickly exposed his horrendous crime and he was swiftly imprisoned.  

2) William Craig Miller

In 2006, debt-ridden William Craig Miller enlisted the help of employee Steven Duffy in burning down his grand Arizona home, hoping for an insurance payout.
All went well until police discovered gas canisters among the charred ruins of the house and suspecting foul play, arrested Miller.

When Miller heard that Duffy was to testify against him in court, he decided to get rid of any corroborating evidence and shot Duffy, his brother, his girlfriend and her kids in a horrific execution-style killing.
Miller is now on death row, all in the name of a $440,000 insurance payout.

1) Kenneth Allen

In one of the most ambitious home insurance scams ever recorded, Indiana gang leader Kenneth Allen had his goons buy over 50 houses and then set them on fire in a variety of ways, including chip pan fires, electrical ‘faults’ and ‘errant’ candles.

For some time the scam paid off, with Allen enjoying the good life while the insurance money rolled in. Eventually, though, his men became lazy with their arson methods and investigators wised up to the con, which by then had cost insurance companies millions of dollars. Allen was sentenced to four years in prison.