A $1.4 million insurance scam led to 20 arrests by the Miami-Dade Police Department’s Economic Crimes and Arson Division. A group used false renters, known as straw renters, and arson to file fraudulent insurance claims. The investigation, referred to as Operation Candlelight, focused on a series of fires, 12 in total, which occurred over a five year period. In each fire, the straw renter claimed to have accidentally left a candle burning next to an object that caught fire and spread to the rest of the property.
After a fire was set, the group would file an insurance claim covering items that were not destroyed in the fire. The group even placed some of the same furniture burned in one fire in later fires to add the items they claimed were destroyed. The leaders of the conspiracy are facing charges of organized fraud, insurance fraud, grand theft, conspiracy, arson and racketeering. The 13 people who acted as straw renters were also arrested and will likely face charges of insurance fraud and conspiracy.
At up to $120,000 per claim, the insurance money gathered added up to a significant sum. The similar circumstances surrounding each claim, in addition to the use of the same items from one claim to the next, eventually drew the attention of police and prosecutors.
Source: The Miami Herald, “Scammers collected insurance on same burned furniture over and over, authorities say,” by Melissa Sanchez, 17 May 2012