Couple arrested on insurance fraud charge

Published: Wednesday, October 31, 2012 at 05:01 AM.

Among the 15 items claimed lost were a Brunswick Bridgeport pool table, 250 CDs, 250 DVDS and 200 VHS tapes, 60 X-Box video games and 85 Wii video games, SCUBA tanks and regulators, 350 Barbie dolls, Pampered Chef kitchen utensils, 53 bottles of wine, champagne and liquor and two six-foot surf boards.

State Fire Marshal Matt Streichert investigated the fire scene on the night of the blaze and determined the fire originated in the kitchen area, causing extensive damage to the house. Jerry Troy Bradley, Lorrie Laurel’s brother, told the fire marshal that he had been cooking on the stove prior to leaving the house and possibly left cooking grease on the stovetop, forgetting to turn off the burner, according to the affidavit. He returned a short time later to find the fire department attempting to extinguish the fire.

The Laurels were insured by Cotton States Mutual Insurance Co. of Atlanta, and the fire took place one day prior to the policy cancellation date, according to the affidavit. They filed an insurance claim and provided a detailed listing of contents lost, with a loss valued at $435,905. Of that amount, $107,580.89 was for items purchased within one year of the insurance claim.

The insurer alleges items claimed as damaged or lost in the fire were not present at the time of the fire and/or have been inflated, according to the affidavit.

The Laurels were examined under oath, and upon review of the examination, Detective David Lindsay of the Division of Insurance Fraud learned the couple had claimed an extensive list of items lost or damaged in the house fire to include items not discovered in an investigation of the fire scene by Fire Investigator J. Michael Hawkins of Fire Analysis & Investigative Resources, according to the affidavit.

Cotton States Mutual Insurance Co. had hired Hawkins, who told the detective that 15 items on the claim were not present at the time of the fire, according to his investigation. The combined value of those items alone is $64,759.10.

Bradley F. Smith of Paul Davis Restoration in Panama City was hired to perform a detailed inventory of the debris in February, and he failed to locate items listed in the insurance claim at the fire scene.

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