A Richmond man has been indicted on more than 100 charges and several other Contra Costa County residents were arrested this week in connection with an insurance fraud scheme in which fires and car crashes were allegedly set up to file false claims, prosecutors said. A county grand jury on Aug. 1 indicted 49-year-old Louis Houston on 113 counts in connection with an ongoing insurance fraud scheme in which he allegedly set fire to homes, destroyed property and sought payment for items that didn’t exist, according to the Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office.According to prosecutors, between 2000 and 2011, Houston claimed property losses from at least 10 fires, 20 incidents of vandalism or theft, eight car collisions and six water damage incidents. In addition, Houston allegedly sought reimbursement for property damage for the same item in multiple unrelated claims by reusing his receipts or using receipts for items that were bought and returned, according to the district attorney’s office. Five co-defendants accused of sharing receipts with Houston and using them to file false claims were arrested on warrants this week in connection with those schemes, Deputy District Attorney Devon Bell said. Sadi Zeigler, 23, of Vallejo and Pittsburg resident Crystal Robinson, 25, first took part in the fraud scheme in 2009, while 28-year-old Kimberly Burdeen-Tanner of Pittsburg, Richmond resident Joan Smith, 32, and Fresno man Cedric Jackson, 29, first filed false claims in 2011, Bell said.
In July 2012, after a yearlong investigation by the state Department of Insurance, search warrants were carried out at Houston’s Richmond home and storage unit and at Jackson’s home in Fresno. During the searches, investigators found numerous items that had been reported stolen or destroyed in the co-defendants’ fraudulent insurance claims. Each of Houston’s co-defendants is in custody, while the Richmond man remained at large as of this morning, Bell said. According to the state insurance department, insurance fraud costs Californians about $15 billion each year. “These schemes cause everyone’s insurance rates to go up, so in essence we’re all paying for their fraud,” Bell said. Bell noted that Houston’s fraud schemes “involve arson, which puts the public at risk as well.” Contra Costa County residents can report suspected insurance fraud to the district attorney’s office at (925) 957-8604.
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