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Fraud Investigation Contributes To Criminal Convictions For Manslaughter & Arson

By January 9, 2012

Partner Melody Mosley brings a unique perspective to each examination under oath she handles based on her long and broad experience in arson investigations. Below is a brief summary of a recent case where Melody worked with a major personal lines carrier in an insurance fraud investigation following a house fire that killed one person and eventually led to prison for the insureds.

Background/Legal Strategy

A vacant home in Long Beach, Calif., was destroyed by fire. Neighbors heard an explosion and saw a man in flames run from the home and roll in gutter water. The man left before firefighters arrived. An investigation determined that the fire was intentionally set with gasoline, and that an explosion had occurred. The husband and wife homeowners filed a claim with the insurance carrier, which began its own arson investigation. The insurance carrier retained Cummins & White attorney Melody Mosley to conduct examinations under oath.


The initial investigation revealed that:

  • The homeowners’ handyman died as a result of being burned in the fire.
  • The handyman had been paid by the homeowner husband to burn the house.

During examinations under oath conducted by Melody Mosley, the couple misrepresented critical facts, stating that the handyman had last worked at the property several weeks before the fire, and they had not recently been in touch with him. However, phone records later indicated a number of recent calls to and from the handyman to the insureds’ cell phones, including calls to the homeowner husband on the day of the fire. Based on the facts uncovered as part of the investigation and the sworn testimony of the homeowners, the claim was denied.

The fire department, which also was investigating the blaze, obtained a copy of the insurance company’s file, and based on the additional information, filed charges against the homeowner husband. In an unusual turn of events, the homeowner wife also was arrested—a decision made by the judge at her husband’s preliminary hearing. The criminal case ended when the homeowner husband pleaded no contest to involuntary manslaughter, conspiracy to commit arson, and insurance fraud. He was sentenced to more than 14 years in prison. His wife pleaded no contest to insurance fraud and was sentenced to six years in prison.

Full text of the case study is available here.