Arson for Profit — Chapter 12

Arson for Profit

Chapter 12

The Insurance Investigation Begins

Monday Morning MOM was at his desk at his usual 6:00 a.m. dictating his final report to Jewelers Select Insurance Company about the successful conclusion of the Winslow claim the Friday before, when his telephone rang. It was Richard Scott de Camp, the Lloyd’s Underwriter.

“Good Afternoon, Richard.” MOM replied. “To what do I owe the honor of hearing from you before I finish my first cup of coffee?”

“Good Morning, MOM. I have a fax from an American broker – sent Sunday afternoon – advising that there was a fire at the home of an Assured for whom we have recently issued a Fine Arts Floater for more than $1.3 million US dollars. We haven’t even collected the premium from the brokers yet. We need an immediate investigation.”

“When was the fire?”

“The report shows Saturday night.”

“I’ll contact my cause and origin man and get him right out. Do you know where the Assured is?”

“His broker says he is in suite 1335 at the Encino Ramada Inn.”

MOM took down the details of policy number, name and address of the Assured, telephone number at the Ramada and asked de Camp to fax to him a copy of the schedule, the application, the wording of the policy and the loss notice. He would contact the Assured and make an appointment for immediate inspection of the scene and obtain a statement from the Assured.

“His broker also states that the Assured is not totally fluent in English so you should take an Armenian language interpreter to help you interview the Assured. It seems that the loss is total.”

“I’ll get right to work Richard.”

“Thank you, MOM, I have a bad feeling about this fire.”

“Why?”

“Too many red flags. The fire is so soon after the policy number was delivered to the American Broker; the schedule, now that I look at it carefully is eclectic and not a real ‘collection.’ This Assured never had a fine arts floater before he obtained a policy from me.”

“I know an Armenian gentleman who can act as interpreter for me if needed. While you sleep tonight, I will be interviewing your Assured and should have a preliminary report for you tomorrow.”

MOM woke up his cause and origin man and told him where to go. The house would be open from the firefighting effort and he should be able to conduct his investigation before MOM scheduled a meeting with the Assured. He called his friend, a second generation American whose family immigrated to the U.S. just before World War I when the Turks were starting what is now called the Armenian Genocide. He was fluent in Armenian, an artist whose time was his own, and who had helped MOM many times before with claims involving Soviet Armenians who had entered the U.S. in the 1970’s and 1980’s. He arranged to meet John Aslanian, the artist and friend, for breakfast at the Coco’s three blocks from MOM’s office.

MOM studied the policy wording and schedule carefully as it came out of his fax machine. He phoned de Camp before the Lloyd’s market closed for the evening and asked that he also fax the appraisals on which the schedule was based. He found it hard to understand why similar values were placed on 19th Century Russian art and modern American art by artists unknown to MOM. Montague was surprised to see on the schedule Persian and Caucasian rugs when he knew that Armenia was near the Caucasus mountains and it was more probable that the rugs would be Caucasian rather than Persian. He saw on the schedule a Fabergé  cigarette case, ornamental pieces and one Royal Jeweled Easter Egg.

It was the Egg that caused him to call for the appraisals. Fabergé made very few of the Eggs, and only for the Russian Royal family. Most were in the hands of the Russian Museum at the Hermitage, some were owned by the Queen of England and the few remaining were held only by the very rich. It was odd that a Soviet Armenian immigrant gas station owner could afford to own a Fabergé egg. MOM, unlike de Camp, did not just have a bad feeling about the claim, he was highly suspicious.

When the second fax arrived from de Camp and he learned that the appraiser was Nathan Krooner, MOM knew he was involved in a serious problem that required detailed and concerted effort. He telephoned his cause and origin investigator, Bill Mack and told him to try to find remains of any art work and take them into custody for review by art experts.
By 8:00 a.m., while Mack was digging through the debris piles made by the fire company in its overhaul of the second fire, MOM had arranged to meet with Dickran Levonyan at the scene at 10:00 a.m. that morning. MOM scheduled a certified court reporter to be there to take down the statement. At breakfast with his friend, John Aslanian, before meeting Dickran, he sought help to be better prepared to understand the Armenian psyche.

“John,” MOM said as he stabbed a healthy part of his Denver omelet with his fork. “Tell me what you know about Fabergé eggs?”

“That is a large subject MOM. Fabergé was the greatest jeweler of the century and personal jeweler to the Tsar.”

“What does a jeweler have to do with Easter Eggs?”

“Everything, since these were made of gold and precious gems. In 1870 Carl Fabergé took over the business so his father could retire. He believed that the value of a work of art lay in the inspiration of its design and the quality of its craftsmanship and not in the cost of the ingredients employed in its manufacture. The Tsar Alexander II encouraged the young Fabergé in his new enterprise and collaborated to some extent with him in the plan to design a very special Easter Egg to be presented to his Tsarina, Marie Feodorovna in 1884.

The custom of giving these eggs on Easter morning and exchanging three kisses was deeply ingrained in the Russian Orthodox way of life. Easter morning was considered the most important of the calendar and the egg, a symbol of the Resurrection, an essential part of it.”

“So the Eggs were made for royalty.”

“Of course, only royalty could afford the time and materials needed to make them.  Some of these eggs were so elaborate that they contained mechanical toys, such as a peacock which steps fastidiously across a tabletop, pauses, turns its plumed head, spreads its tail feathers which coruscate with brilliantly colored enamel and automatically closes them again. Another contains an authentic working model of the Trans-Siberian Express in gold  and platinum while others are rock crystal or simply wild flights of Fabergé’s imagination. By the time of the Revolution, Fabergé had offices in Moscow, St. Petersburg, and London. Works by Fabergé, other than the Royal Eggs, are not uncommon.”

“What are the chances that a refugee from Soviet Armenia would own a Fabergé egg?”

“Nonexistent. Although he might own a very nice copy. Fabergé only made about  42 Royal Easter Eggs and I have heard of, at least 3000, that were stolen here in Los Angeles alone.”

“What kind of information should I ask him about, John, that would confirm that the things that burned up in this house were real, valuable antiques?”

“First, MOM, I would ask him about the provenance of the items he claims he had. Their history. Where he got them, from whom and for how much.”

“The investigator’s basic outline for every interview, the six basic questions: ‘Who? What? Why? Where? When? and How? That I understand, but is there anything in his ethnic background that would help me in my investigation?”

“Yes, you must remember that he comes from the old, and now thankfully defunct, Soviet Union. To have any success in a totalitarian government a person must be a consummate liar. You must, therefore take everything you hear with a grain of salt.” John, reminding himself, shook a little salt on his omelet, took a bite out of his English Muffin, and continued. “He will look you in the eye and tell you that rain is dry, and you will believe what he says.”

“O.K., John, I think I have it. Finish your coffee and we’ll drive up into the hills above Los Angeles.”

“I’m finished.” John responded, stuffing the last of his strawberry jam-covered muffin in his mouth and, with some difficulty, mumbled: “Could it be that this is a legitimate fire caused by the serial arsonist that has been setting fires over the last five years in Los Angeles?”

“I start my investigation into every claim believing the loss is legitimate – even the most suspicious and difficult to believe cases – because if I let my prejudices or prejudgments get in the way I will always miss important evidence. If the cause, the claim, or both are fraudulent the person who is perpetrating a fraud will always give himself or herself away before I finish.”

“Yes, I remember the case you and I worked on with a totally believable 82-year-old grandmother – I was sure she had an honest claim – and your investigation proved she was a fraud.”

“John, she was a lovely lady. Unfortunately, the appraiser whose signature she forged to buy the policy had been dead for thirty years. Once we found where he was buried the rest of the case was easy. All we know in this case is that there was a fire and the fire department thinks it was intentionally set. We don’t know who did it or why it was done. That’s what investigators do, get answers to the who, what, why, where, when and how questions. All we know now is a little of the ‘what,” the ‘where’ and some of the ‘how’ but we have no idea “who,’ ‘why,’ or exactly ‘when’ and ‘how.’”

“MOM, I see some people waiting in the drive.” John Aslanian said as MOM’s Cadillac Escalade pulled up to the drive of the Levonyan house.

“The young lady with the briefcase is our court reporter. I don’t recognize any of the others.”

MOM pulled his car into the drive, placed the gear into “Park” and opened the door. He swivelled his body sideways so both feet were on the drive before he pulled himself out of the drivers’ seat. With a push of a remote control button the back lid opened and he removed his aluminum briefcase and then moved forward to greet the court-reporter and others waiting for him.

“Good Morning, Jennifer.” MOM greeted the reporter. “Is everyone here?”

“Good Morning, MOM.” Jennifer replied, “Let me introduce you to Mr. Dickran Levonyan, the owner of the house who has been waiting with me here for the last five minutes.”

“It is a pleasure to meet you Mr. Levonyan.  I am Marion Orpheus Montague, an independent insurance adjuster and investigator retained by your insurers, the Underwriters at Lloyd’s in London, England. As you heard, my name is often abbreviated to my initials and I have no difficulty responding to anyone addressing me as ‘MOM’.”

“Thank you, sir.” Dickran Levonyan responded, formally.

“And this, Mr. Levonyan, is my friend, John Aslanian, who agreed to come by to help me if you have any difficulty understanding my South Philadelphia accented English. And who are these other gentlemen?”

“My sons, Hrant and Hovsep and my insurance agent Harry Dersogian.”

Introductions completed, MOM let Levonyan show him through the debris. The house appeared to be devastated by the fire with little left but the pile of blackened personal property stacked on the pool deck by the firefighters when they completed the overhaul of the fire scene.

MOM was only interested in getting in his mind the general lay out of the scene. He knew his cause and origin investigator, Bill Mack, had already done a thorough job of finding the cause and origin of the fire and documenting the scene. Bill, who knew that MOM would be here at 10:00 left by 9:00 a.m. and was probably, if he worked in his normal course, meeting with the Fire Department’s Arson investigators to share notes.

Levonyan pointed out where he had stored his collection of Icons under the place where the sofa had been, walls where famous oils had hung, and corners where cabinets had stood to hold fine porcelain. MOM took it all in and only listened to Levonyan’s heavily accented rendition sufficiently to be polite. MOM absorbed the sights and smell of the scene. Even three days after the fire the smell of gasoline, burned wood and broiled cat and rabbit was pervasive.

While touring the family room, where the family cat lost all nine lives, MOM noted its corpse curled up on the pool deck, its fur singed off its stiff-legged body. MOM made a mental note that Levonyan did not point out the corpse. Neither he, his two sons nor the insurance agent seemed the least concerned about the death of a family pet. He also saw Jennifer, the court reporter, setting up her machine on the pool deck on the side opposite the final resting place of the family cat, directly in front of the diving board. She had salvaged two plastic patio chairs and set them around two rocks for the witness and MOM to go forward with the interview.

“Mr. Levonyan, I think I have seen as much as I can see, at this time. I know it is too soon after the fire for you to give me a great deal of detail about what you lost so I, as the representative of your insurers, would like to take a preliminary statement from you.

Usually I would simply put a tape recorder in front of you but, because of the damage here I wasn’t sure it would work. That is why I asked Jennifer and John to be here so it would be as easy as possible.”

“When I get money?” Levonyan asked.

“I don’t know – at this time all we know is that you are the victim of a fire. You understand, in exchange for the promise of the Underwriters at Lloyd’s to pay a claim when you had a loss you also made promises to the Underwriters.”

“I never spoke one your Underwriters. I only spoke Harry.”

“Yes, I understand, but do you understand that an insurance policy is a contract where both parties to the contract make promises to each other and that the Underwriters are only required to pay you if you first fulfill your promises. One of those promises was that you would prove to the Underwriters the amount of your loss and that it was caused by a risk they insured. By showing me the fire damage you proved that a risk insured against happend. Now we must find out if all of the other promises made in the policy have been fulfilled and the amount of your loss.”

“When do I get money?”

“Apparently, you don’t understand me. John, would you please explain the mutual promises made in an insurance company by the person insured and the insurance company, in his language.”

“I will try and, if my command of the Armenian language is not enough I’m sure Mr. Dersogian will help me.”

“Fine, while you do that I’ll give Jennifer a title for the booklet she will create after the statement is completed and take a few pictures.”

After 20 minutes of heated discussion with those who spoke Armenian Dickran agreed to be interviewed in front of the court reporter. Levonyan and MOM sat on two, larger flat rocks facing each other and directly across from the court reporter. John Aslanian moved his chair next to MOM while the two young men and the insurance agent sat on plastic chairs near Levonyan.

The interview was calm, low-key and non-confrontational. MOM learned that Levonyan knew nothing about insurance, had never had a policy of any kind with Underwriters at Lloyd’s previously, relied totally on Harry – who would interpose modifications of John’s translations, objections and often answer questions posed to Levonyan. MOM watched as Aslanian’s prediction was fulfilled – Levonyan answered each question posed to him in what appeared to be a forthright manner – and seemed to lie for the sheer joy of getting away with it. He testified 180 degrees from facts MOM had learned from his computer-literate investigators’ search of the public databases. He claimed he never had a claim, had never been canceled by any insurer. He testified – for Jennifer administered the oath – that all $2,000,000 in fine arts scheduled on his policy had been taken with him from his home in Soviet Armenia.

Levonyan explained that he escaped the tyranny of Stalin [a dictator who had died 20 years before Levonyan left Soviet Armenia] and was able to bring his household goods with him. All of the art was acquired as gifts from his family or purchased with his earnings as an engineer at the sport shoe factory in Yerevan.

The statement recorded by the pool was not as much an interrogation as a narration. Whatever question MOM would ask would be answered with a ten minute story of Levonyan’s life in the Soviet Union.

John Aslanian, who was born and raised in Southern California, exchanged meaningful glances with MOM, while translating the responses carefully.

After one hour and forty minutes MOM announced: “I’m done for now, Mr. Levonyan. I appreciate your cooperation at this most traumatic time. I do need your further help.” MOM opened his briefcase and pulled out a pad which he handed to Levonyan. “This pad contains forms to help you list all the things you lost and it will help the Underwriters at Lloyd’s determine the actual amount of your loss. Please put in the form, perhaps with the help of your sons, one of whom has graduated from an American High School, information that gives me a description of each item you claim was destroyed, the date and place you first got the item, how much you paid for it or, if a gift, what it was worth when you first obtained it, and its value at the time of the fire. Will you do that for me?”

MOM and Aslanian listened to a flow of Armenian between Dickran and his agent responded to in kind for approximately three minutes. Dersogian then translated, in answer to the question: “Yes.”

“We will meet again.  I will be sending some of my investigators to go through the debris; I have hired a salvor to see what can be saved and to make an inventory of each item of personal property that can be identified, and I will need to take a statement from Mrs. Levonyan, your three sons, and probably a follow-up interview with you. Where can I reach you?”

Levonyan provided MOM with the number of his suite at the Encino Ramada and his number at his gas station in Los Angeles. As they were about to end, MOM asked:

“Mr. . Levonyan, it seems clear that the fire was started by someone. It was not an accident. Who would do this to you?”

“I no bullshit man,” Levonyan shouted in English. “No one hates me. I am a good, hard-working businessman. It must be the K.G.B. or the Turk.  The Turks hate all Armenians. They killed millions of us, you know.”

“So, if I am to catch the person who did this to you I should look for a Turk or a K.G.B. agent, is that what you think?”

“Yes. The K.G.B. was very angry with me. That is why they made me come to the United States.”

“Tell me that story.”

Levonyan, a person who could never resist the temptation to tell a story, used another 40 pages of the transcript to describe his flight from Soviet Armenia. MOM, like a Buddah waiting for 60 saffron-robed monks to finish their prayers, listened with rapt attention. When the story was finished, the record was closed, Jennifer put away her machine and everyone said a good-bye after setting an appointment for their next meeting. MOM put his aluminum case in the storage area of the Cadillac, waved to the Levonyan’s standing in the driveway and drove down the hill, silent.


© 2017 – Barry Zalma

Barry Zalma, Esq., CFE, now limits his practice to service as an insurance consultant and expert witness specializing in insurance coverage, insurance claims handling, insurance bad faith and insurance fraud almost equally for insurers and policyholders. He also serves as an arbitrator or mediator for insurance related disputes. He practiced law in California for more than 44 years as an insurance coverage and claims handling lawyer and more than 49 years in the insurance business.

Mr. Zalma is the first recipient of the first annual Claims Magazine/ACE Legend Award.

Check in on Zalma’s Insurance 101 – a Videoblog – that allows your people to learn about insurance in three to four minute increments at http://www.zalma.com/videoblog

Look to National Underwriter Company for the new Zalma Insurance Claims Library,  at www.nationalunderwriter.com/ZalmaLibrary  The new books are Insurance Law, Mold Claims Coverage Guide, Construction Defects Coverage Guide and Insurance Claims: A Comprehensive Guide

The American Bar Association, Tort & Insurance Practice Section has published Mr. Zalma’s book “The Insurance Fraud Deskbook” available at  http://shop.americanbar.org/eBus/Store/ProductDetails.aspx?productId=214624, or 800-285-2221 which is presently available and “Diminution of Value Damages” available at http://shop.americanbar.org/eBus/Store/ProductDetails.aspx?productId=203226972

Mr. Zalma’s three new e-books  were recently added and are available at http://www.zalma.com/zalmabooks.html

Mr. Zalma’s reports can be found on Tumbler at https://www.tumblr.com/search/zalma,  on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/barry.zalma and you can follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/bzalma

Legal Disclaimer:

The author and publisher disclaim any liability, loss, or risk incurred as a consequence, directly or indirectly, of the use and application of any of the contents of this blog. The information provided is not a substitute for the advice of a competent insurance, legal, or other professional. The Information provided at this site should not be relied on as legal advice. Legal advice cannot be given without full consideration of all relevant information relating to an individual situation

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Arson for Profit – Chapter 11

Arson for Profit

Chapter 11

Time To Visit Yerevan

Before driving to Los Angeles International Airport, Levon Levonyan spoke on the telephone with his father.

“Dad, the second fire did the job.”

“I am proud of you son. Now, until the burns are healed you must go immediately to Yerevan and spend time with your grandmother.”

“But Dad, Armenia is so dull. There’s nothing to do there. They don’t even have a nightclub in all of Yerevan. I’ll be bored out of my mind.”

“You should have thought of that when you brought the extra gasoline to the house.”

“But I have nothing except these singed clothes on my back.”

“I packed a suitcase with all your clothes before we went to the dinner dance Saturday night. Your suitcase is in the Glendale station.”

“Money. Dad, I don’t have any money. I certainly don’t have any Armenian money.”

“You have no need for money. In the suitcase is an American Express Gold Card in your name and at least $500 in cash in the till. Take that with you. With the AMEX card you can buy whatever you need. You can help your aunt Elichka. I will pay what you charge with the monies I receive from Lloyd’s. But you must leave the country before any person in authority can see you.”

“I’ll miss you and mom.”

“We and your brothers will miss you too.”

“Tell me, Levon, what you did on the night of the first fire.”

“At 10:00 that night I filled fifteen one-gallon plastic cans with 87 octane unleaded gasoline from our pumps at the Eagle Rock station. I even paid for the gas, with cash, so the gallonage and income records would be accurate. I put the gallon cans of gasoline in the back of my Camaro and drove to Los Angeles. Just before I entered our cul-de-sac I turned off the lights on the Camaro and entered the driveway without any of our neighbors seeing me.”

“Why so much gasoline?”

“I was sure, if the five gallons the man from ANPA told me to use fifteen would be more effective in destroying the house.”

“You were wrong.”

“I know that now, Dad.”

“What did you do next?”

“I sat, with the windows down and the engine off, for five minutes and listened. All I could hear was the soft hum of the television in Wilson’s house across the street. All the other houses were dark and it seemed only the Wilsons’ were at home. The television turned off at 11:00 and the lights went out in the Wilsons’ house. You know he’s a morning person, usually out watering his lawn at 7:00 in the morning, so I knew he would go to sleep early.”

“How long did you sit in the car?”

“Maybe 15 minutes.”

“Then, what did you do?”

“I opened the trunk, quietly and carried the cans to the carport two at a time. I set the cans down in carport and went back for the last can which I spread on the strips of cloth I had placed earlier. The moon was shining brightly into the living room so I didn’t need to turn on any lights. To protect myself from sparks I went to the circuit breaker panel and turned off the master breaker. Then I, as the ANPA expert taught me, turned off the gas at the meter so that no pilot light would accidentally start the fire early.

“I used the rest of the cans of gasoline and poured them in the living room and dining room, being careful to soak gasoline into all of the upholstered furniture. The other two cans were used to soak in gasoline the three bedrooms and two baths. I tied all the rooms together with the gasoline-covered newspapers and cloth strips, and then made a trail of gasoline soaked cloth out to the front entrance.

“I stopped at the hall bath to relieve myself and then went out the front door. I rolled up the Metro Section of the Times and standing on the first step lit the newspaper and threw it into the open doorway.”

“Before I could start walking to my car, expecting the fire to spread slowly from room to room along the line of newspapers I had spread throughout the house, it exploded with a gigantic flash. Unlike most explosions it made a sound like a strong wind rushing through trees. I felt immediate heat on the right side of my face and my hair caught on fire. I rolled in the grass and put out the fire on my head, walked down the hill to the Camaro and drove quickly down the hill. I did not turn my lights on until I heard the fire engines screaming up the hill.”

“Did you see the helicopter?”

“What helicopter?”

“The one that put out the fire.”

“No. I saw nothing. So that’s why you had me start a second fire.”

“Yes.”

“For the second fire I only used five gallons and the house did not explode but merely burned furiously.”

“It is time.  Go to the Glendale station, pick up the suitcase and cash I left for you, and go directly to the airport. When your hair and eyebrows grow back you can return to your family.”


© 2017 – Barry Zalma

Barry Zalma, Esq., CFE, now limits his practice to service as an insurance consultant and expert witness specializing in insurance coverage, insurance claims handling, insurance bad faith and insurance fraud almost equally for insurers and policyholders. He also serves as an arbitrator or mediator for insurance related disputes. He practiced law in California for more than 44 years as an insurance coverage and claims handling lawyer and more than 49 years in the insurance business.

Mr. Zalma is the first recipient of the first annual Claims Magazine/ACE Legend Award.

Check in on Zalma’s Insurance 101 – a Videoblog – that allows your people to learn about insurance in three to four minute increments at http://www.zalma.com/videoblog

Look to National Underwriter Company for the new Zalma Insurance Claims Library,  at www.nationalunderwriter.com/ZalmaLibrary  The new books are Insurance Law, Mold Claims Coverage Guide, Construction Defects Coverage Guide and Insurance Claims: A Comprehensive Guide

The American Bar Association, Tort & Insurance Practice Section has published Mr. Zalma’s book “The Insurance Fraud Deskbook” available at  http://shop.americanbar.org/eBus/Store/ProductDetails.aspx?productId=214624, or 800-285-2221 which is presently available and “Diminution of Value Damages” available at http://shop.americanbar.org/eBus/Store/ProductDetails.aspx?productId=203226972

Mr. Zalma’s three new e-books  were recently added and are available at http://www.zalma.com/zalmabooks.html

Mr. Zalma’s reports can be found on Tumbler at https://www.tumblr.com/search/zalma,  on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/barry.zalma and you can follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/bzalma

Legal Disclaimer:

The author and publisher disclaim any liability, loss, or risk incurred as a consequence, directly or indirectly, of the use and application of any of the contents of this blog. The information provided is not a substitute for the advice of a competent insurance, legal, or other professional. The Information provided at this site should not be relied on as legal advice. Legal advice cannot be given without full consideration of all relevant information relating to an individual situation.

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Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Arson for Profit – Chapter 10

Arson for Profit

Chapter 10

The Rekindle

Firefighters perform an overhaul of a fire scene to protect property not destroyed, and to be certain the fire will not restart. Firefighters fear, and are most embarrassed by, what they call a “rekindle.” They recognize that an ember can smolder in a mattress or overstuffed chair, seem cool to the touch, and burst into flame hours later when the heat, fuel and oxygen levels are suitable. At 7:30 a.m., after Tom and Orson completed their scene investigation, the fire suppression team reentered the house to perform an overhaul.

Firefighters tore apart sofas, overstuffed chairs and mattresses. They then hauled the debris into the back yard and stacked it on the concrete deck around the pool. Plaster was peeled from walls to make sure none of the studs had received enough heat to burst into flame. Anything that could possibly restart a fire was removed from the house. Debris was pushed off the floors with rakes and brooms. Hoses and squeegees were used to clean all debris off the floors for final picture taking by the arson investigators of low points of burn that could not be seen because of the debris. When complete the arson investigators were called by the fire fighters to return to the scene.

While the firefighters perspired in the early morning light protecting the house from further damage, Dickran Levonyan was taking a long, hot shower in his suite at the Encino Ramada Inn. His wife and two sons were still sleeping in the King size-bed of their two bedroom suite. His third son was at Los Angeles International Airport buying tickets for a flight to Yerevan by way of Brussels.

After finishing his shower, shaving and brushing his teeth with the tools provided by the hotel, Dickran ordered breakfast from room service and woke his sons.

At 8:00 a.m. the morning after the fire, Levonyan and his eldest son Levon sat on the balcony of the suite at the Encino Ramada Inn eating a room-service breakfast of Oatmeal, eggs, bacon, sausages, O’Brien potatoes and toasted wheat bread while Mrs. Levonyan and the two younger boys were downstairs at the hotel restaurant. Levon’s eyebrows were singed off and the back of his hands were covered in salve from the second degree burns he incurred when the house exploded. Levon had made arrangements with his father to meet after his mother and brothers went down to the restaurant so that she would not be frightened by his condition.

Dickran, who loved his son, did not express the fact that he thought him to be an idiot. He munched on his toast to keep control. He explained to his son that the first effort was not good enough. He looked into the 22-year-old boy’s eyes, still bloodshot from gasoline fumes and smoke, sighed deeply, swallowed and said:

“The house still stands. There is still too much evidence that the things in the house are not what is listed on the insurance policy. It must burn more. It’s Sunday and the firemen will be gone from the house by the time it is dark. You must go back, this time with only one five-gallon can of gas from the station and make sure the rest of the house is destroyed.”

“But, father, it exploded like a bomb. How could there be anything left?”

“The Paramedics – while I was recovering from the heart attack I had when that Cossack Campizi was asking me questions – told me a fire department helicopter saw the explosion and dropped water from the sky to put out the fire. It seems they are on watch because it hasn’t rained in months and the brush is dry.”

“What bad luck.”

“Luck, had nothing to do with it. You were told to set a fire, not blow up the neighborhood.”

“But, father, you told me you wanted the whole house burned. I know the ANPA told me to use no more than 5 gallons – it seemed to me logically that 15 gallons would be better.”

“You should never think. Just do what you are told.”

“Yes, father.”

“Now go before your mother and brothers return from breakfast. They must be kept in total ignorance of how the fire happened. You should get five gallons of gasoline from the station and be sure you totally destroy the house tonight and then get on the plane to visit your grandmother in Yerevan”

“Yes, father.”

After breakfast, the family went to the Sherman Oaks Galleria and purchased clothes, toiletries and other essentials that were supposedly destroyed in the fire and charged them all on Dickran’s American Express Gold  Card. They returned to the hotel and spent the rest of the afternoon in the pool and the evening watching movies on the hotel’s cable television.

At 9:00 p.m. Levon drove his Camaro out of the parking garage and went to the family’s Los Angeles service station. He filled a five-gallon plastic gas can with 87 octane unleaded gasoline, put the can behind the driver’s seat and drove up the hill to what remained of the family home. He turned off the lights two blocks from the house, turned the engine off as he entered the cul-de-sac and coasted into the driveway. Once hidden from prying eyes of neighbors he took the gasoline can back into the house. The odor of mildew, charred wood, putrefying pigeon and wet, dead-cat was almost overpowering. Breathing through his mouth he carefully spread small amounts of gasoline over those items of furniture, books and appliances that were not destroyed by the original fire. Where the fire fighters had peeled plaster from the walls, he applied gasoline to the studs. He returned to his car, turned the engine on as quietly as possible, left the door open and then pulled out his butane lighter and lit a cigarette. Puffing on the cigarette to keep it lit, he pulled a book of paper matches from his pants pocket, ripped the cover off and placed the cigarette between the match heads. He threw matchbook and cigarette into the house and waited until the cigarette burned down to the match head and ignited the gasoline fumes where it had fallen. After a few seconds it was clear to Levon that the match book fuse had worked and the fire was spreading slowly throughout the house.

Levon calmly walked down to his car and quietly, in reverse, drove without lights past his sleeping neighbors and stopped at the end of the cul-de-sac and waited for the fire engines to arrive. He could see, from the bottom of the hill, that the entire house was engulfed in flames and heard sirens coming from Ventura Boulevard. In seconds Hovsep shifted into first gear, gently let out the clutch and drove slowly onto Ventura Boulevard, went east to Coldwater Canyon and followed it into Beverly Hills.  At Wilshire Boulevard he turned right until he reached the 405 freeway, took it south to Century Boulevard where he parked in a long term lot and rode a bus to Los Angeles International Airport. He ate a quiet dinner in the Bradley Terminal while waiting to board his 2:00 a.m. flight to Brussels and eventually Yerevan, Armenia. He did not call his father because he was told to not communicate until his eyebrows grew back and his hands healed. He was proud that, on the second try, he had accomplished what his father instructed.

Levon was right, this time the fire totally destroyed the house and its contents were limited to shards and ashes.

The engine company recorded the second fire as a rekindle. Campizi did not agree. He would continue to investigate convincing himself that he would not quit until L.A. County was in a position to prosecute someone.


© 2017 – Barry Zalma

Barry Zalma, Esq., CFE, now limits his practice to service as an insurance consultant and expert witness specializing in insurance coverage, insurance claims handling, insurance bad faith and insurance fraud almost equally for insurers and policyholders. He also serves as an arbitrator or mediator for insurance related disputes. He practiced law in California for more than 44 years as an insurance coverage and claims handling lawyer and more than 49 years in the insurance business.

Mr. Zalma is the first recipient of the first annual Claims Magazine/ACE Legend Award.

Check in on Zalma’s Insurance 101 – a Videoblog – that allows your people to learn about insurance in three to four minute increments at http://www.zalma.com/videoblog

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Arson for Profit – Chapter 9

Arson for Profit

Chapter 9
Arson

The first arson investigator on the scene at the Levonyan house was Orson Campizi, a 20-year veteran of the fire service and the most senior arson investigator assigned to the Los Angeles Fire Department Arson Investigation Unit. Campizi stood six foot three inches tall, sported a dark black moustache, slightly tinged with gray that hung down over his bottom lip. He arrived in a suit covered by a fire department turn-out jacket and a white, Captain’s fire helmet. He took immediate  control.

“Captain Barnes,” Campizi shouted. “Please have your men stop all overhaul efforts until I can examine the scene.”

“Yes, sir.” Captain Barnes, responded knowing that Campizi, although holding a lower rank, was always in charge of a fire scene when arson was suspected and the hazard to human life had been extinguished with the fire.

“Tell my partner, Tomas Fedorian, when he arrives to meet me with the “sniffer” in the house.”

“Will do.”

“And tell the uniforms to keep the spectators out of the scene.”

“Already done.”

“Thanks.” Campizi, with his steel-bodied Nikon, fitted with a telescopic lens, a macroscopic lens and a fish-eye lens plus a powerful flash, entered the house. What he saw was typical of an explosion. All of the glass in the house was shattered. Walls were scorched, but not burned. The smell of gasoline was overpowering. The destruction, although impressive, was not complete. Much of the contents of the house was intact except for breakables that were strewn across the floor in multiple sizes of ceramic shards. His flash outlined the plastic case of a small color television in the living room that had melted and now looked like Salvador Dali had painted a television while suffering from a hangover.

Campizi began to methodically, and in great detail, photograph the entire scene from every angle with smoke still raising from some of the furniture items. He photographed the partially burned bed sheets placed across the floor from room to room. He used close up, from a distance with his lens pulled all the way back, and with the fish-eye lens to document the use of trailers to spread the fire. He photographed the remains of each piece of furniture, the interior of every cabinet and closet, and attempted to find a lowest possible burned area. He found the entire house had been burned at the same low level, slightly above the carpet, throughout the house.

Campizi photographed patterns on the partially burned carpet which appeared to be patterns left by the gasoline as it had been poured. Liquid gasoline, Campizi knew, seldom burned. Rather, the fumes that rise as the gasoline evaporates at room temperature, burn while the liquid gasoline protects the material on which it sits since it is cooler than the surrounding area. As a result, the edges burn, where there is no liquid gasoline to protect them, leaving a trail much like the marks water will make when dripped on a brown paper bag.

As Campizi finished exposing his second roll of 36 frames of color film, his partner arrived, the hydrocarbon sniffer under his arm.

“Any possibility this was an accidental fire, Orson?” Tom Fedorian asked, entering the dark room with the assistance of a powerful florescent lantern dressed in his fire department issued turn outs and heavy boots, gingerly stepping over broken glass and ceramics.

“Not much.” Campizi responded.  “I’m sure you smelled the heavy odor of gasoline. Look down the hallway and you will see what looks like trailers in every room. The person who set the fire wasn’t that knowledgeable since there was an explosion.  Since I found no crispy critter – except the family cat – it seems like the arsonist survived. I’d bet next weeks pay he’s hurt.”

“Only one of the firefighters would be dumb enough to take that bet. Something about sprinkling water on fires that addles their minds.” Fedorian laughed.

“Did you bring the sniffer?”

“Sure did, and two evidence cans.”

“Good, give me the sniffer, and then get the office to contact all of the hospitals in L. A. County for reports on any burn victims with burns on their hands and face. Also, get me whatever information is available on the owners.”

“Right away.” Fedorian returned to his car (since the hand radios had difficulty in the hills) while Campizi opened the case on the sniffer. The device consisted of a small metal box with a dial that read hydrocarbons in 1/100ths of a part per million. Connected to the box was a wand attached to a cable. When the wand was touched to an item suspected of containing hydrocarbon accelerants, it would register the percentage of hydrocarbon to air. Campizi, who had already photographed the undamaged bathroom (by closing the door, Levon had kept the fire away and it was undamaged) and placed the sensor on the bathroom carpet. The needle on the sniffer hit the peg and bounced off. He then took out his Swiss Army knife and cut a twelve-inch square piece out of the carpet. Campizi twisted the square of carpet over the evidence can and was amazed to see two ounces of liquid gasoline collect in the bottom of the can.

“This guy was taking a chance on getting killed.” Orson said to himself.

From behind the bathroom door Tom coughed.

“What is it Tom?”

“The LAPD. says the owner just pulled into the cul-de-sac and is making a lot of noise. He thinks you should speak with the man.”

“O.K. But if I go deal with the citizen you label this can and piece of carpet. The can has a liquid I squeezed from the carpet. The piece was cut out of the undamaged carpet next to the commode.”

“I’ll take care of the paperwork. Just remember the person you are about to see is a victim, not a suspect.”

“I’ll be on my best behavior, Tom. Oh, also, take some pictures of this room now that I’ve cut it out and see if a lab tech can get any prints off the faucets and the toilet handle. It seems the arsonist used the toilet and washed his hands before he set the fire.”

“It was nice of him to close the bathroom door so we could have this clean, liquid evidence of some regular/unleaded gasoline which, from its smell was the cheap 87 octane stuff. The lab should tell us exactly the type and hopefully the brand of the gasoline that was used.”

“Keep collecting evidence. I’ll explain to the citizen why he can’t come into his house until we make sure it is safe for a civilian and that none of the evidence was contaminated.”

“Good luck, Campy.”

“Thanks, but I’ll have the boys from LAPD there to help me if he becomes dangerous.”

Campizi carefully picked his way through the debris and standing water with the assistance of his lantern. He walked through the portal where once stood an oak entry door, down the driveway and past the fire and police vehicles to a line of yellow tape closing off the Cul-du-sac. As he approached, he saw a man in a business suit, approximately 5 foot 6 inches tall who weighed, at least, 240 pounds. The man was totally bald on top with a bright red birthmark covering half his forehead much like that sported by the ex-Soviet Premier Gorbachev. Unlike Gorbachev’s birthmark, Campizi saw a mark that looked much like a map of Texas drawn by a Ranger after drinking a quart of rye whiskey. The man was jumping up-and-down in front of a police officer, gesturing wildly and shouting in a language Campizi had never heard before.

As he approached the two men, the police officer looked concerned for the well being of his disparager. Campizi, on the other hand, wanted to talk to the person, calmly and in English. He said in his most official, condescending and gentle voice:

“Can I help, officer?”

“Please, sir. This gentleman insists he must go to his house but he is so excited he keeps yelling at me in that foreign language.”

Putting his hand gently on the large man’s shoulder, standing a least a foot taller and exerting enough pressure to hold him to the ground and stop the wild jumping and gesturing, Campizi said: “I am Los Angeles Fire Department Arson Investigator Orson Campizi, sir. I am in charge of the investigation of the fire. Who are you?”
The large man, faced with an authority figure in complete control of the situation, immediately calmed and responded, as if someone had turned on a tape recording, in a  monotone voice: “I am Dickran Levonyan, the owner of the house at the top of the hill. Why am I not allowed to go to my house?”

“Is you house number 1313?”

“Yes.”

“You can’t go there because there has been a fire. It is unsafe for anyone other than a trained firefighter to enter 1313.”

“My house!” Levonyan screamed. “It is destroyed!”

“Not quite, Mr. Levonyan. In fact, the fire department was quite effective. The fire was extinguished before it could do much damage.”

Shocked and upset that his son’s effort did not totally destroy the house, Levonyan fell to his knees on the pavement, weeping uncontrollably and kicking his feet up and down like a 2-year-old throwing a tantrum. “My diamonds, my diamonds, are my diamonds still there?”

“Diamonds?” Campizi asked.

“Yes, I am a diamond dealer. I have diamonds worth two million dollars in the floor safe in the master bedroom closet. Are they safe?”

“I don’t know, Mr. Levonyan. I was just beginning my investigation when I was told you needed to see me.”

“Please, sir. Please go look and tell me if my diamonds are safe.” Levonyan implored, as if he was asking Campizi to look for the body of his son.

“Of course I will, Mr. Levonyan. Before I do, however, you must calm down and help me with my investigation. If they are in the house, they remain perfectly safe, my partner is there now with the firefighters collecting evidence.”

“My diamonds! You must get my diamonds!” Levonyan screamed.

“Don’t worry, sir, they are safe. What is your full name?”

“Dickran Levonyan.”

“Who besides you, lives in the house.”

“This is ridiculous! You must check for my diamonds!”

“I told you I will, but not until you answer my questions. This was a very serious fire.”

“O.K., O.K.” Levonyan mumbled under his breath, enjoying the role he was playing of the poor fire victim. “Me, my wife Anahid, my sons Levon, Hrant and Hovsep.”

“Are they all with you?”

“Just my wife and Hrant. Why do you ask?”

“Well, do you know where your other two sons are?”

“Sure, Hovsep went to the movies with his girlfriend, Lucy just before Anahid and I went to the dance at the Ramada. He usually doesn’t get home until after midnight. Levon, my eldest, said he was going to a nightclub in Arizona and did not expect to return until the day after tomorrow. He is quite a lady’s man.”

“Do you have any pets?”

“Pets! Are you insane?” Levonyan fell to his knees, pounded his fists on the pavement, and screamed. “You ask me about pets when my house is burned and my diamonds are in danger? Please let me go to my house.”

“No.” Campizi reached down and drew Levonyan up to his feet drawing back from the overpoweringly strong alcohol odor coming from Levonyan. “Please be calm, sir. I will check for your diamonds but you must answer my questions first. Do you have any pets?”

“O.K., forgive me.” Levonyan responded, becoming calm as quickly as he became hysterical. “I am very anxious. Yes, we have two Dobermans, a Persian cat and 20 pigeons.”

“Where were the animals and birds kept.”

“The cat had the run of the house. The birds are kept in a coop attached to the house between my property and my neighbor to the south.”

“The dogs. Where are the dogs kept?”

“Usually in the house with us. One is at a Veterinarian, because he was injured. I think my son Hrant took the other with him before we left for the APA dinner dance.”

“Where, exactly were the diamonds stored?”

“In the master bedroom closet there is a safe in the floor at the far, left-hand side, as you enter the walk-in closet.”

“Does it use a combination or key to open it?”

“Combination.”

“And who knows the combination?”

“Only me.”

“And where is the combination written down?”

“No where! Do you take me for an idiot? You are a terrible man! You have insulted me! You have no respect for an immigrant. — Oh, my heart!” Dickran Levonyan then slapped his hand to the left side of his chest, sat heavily on the ground and began to hyperventilate. There was nothing wrong with him but he was becoming concerned by the interminable questions and used the feigned heart condition as a means of cutting short the interrogation.

Campizi reacted immediately. He called for the fire suppression captain on scene with his portable radio and instructed him to immediately dispatch one of the paramedics – who are always sent to a fire scene – to attend to Levonyan. When the paramedic arrived and started to treat the apparently distraught and in distress Levonyan, Campizi said: “The Paramedic will take care of you and I will go look for your diamonds.”

When Campizi returned to the house he found his partner digging through the debris in the living room. “Find anything, Tom?” Campizi asked.

“Just what looks like the remains of some bed sheets that were used as trailers. They just add to the other evidence that establishes this was not an accidental fire.”

“Have you found any crispy critters?”

“No people, but I did find the remains of a cat that had been blown out of the house and landed, severely burned in the pool.”

“No dogs or people?”

“Nope, just debris. Oh, in the side yard was some kind of wire cage where I found a lot of dead birds.”

“O.K., the owner is hysterical but he claims there is a floor safe in the master bedroom with $2,000,000 in diamonds in it.”

“That I would like to see.”

The two investigators, carefully picked their way through debris and sloshing in fire suppression water, found the master bedroom. The steel frame and box-spring springs of the king-size bed were clearly visible as were parts of the mattress that had not been soaked in gasoline. The closet was full of wet and smoke stained woman’s clothing. Although four men, of various ages lived in the house, they could find little evidence of clothing belonging to men. The smell of gasoline was so strong the investigators considered leaving to get breathing apparatus from the engine company before searching for the diamonds Levonyan said were in the safe in the Master Bedroom closet.

“There it is,” Campizi said, shining his light in the corner of the closet on a small, round, steel door standing open and perpendicular to the floor. “It seems, whoever caused this fire found the safe.”

“Let’s check.” Responded Tom Fedorian as he crawled under a rabbit fur coat on his hands and knees and reached his hand deep into the floor safe.

“Anything there?” Campizi asked.

“Just water, Orson.”

“Tom, do you notice anything unusual about this safe.”

“It’s just a hole in the floor lined in concrete.”

“No, check out the locking mechanism.”

“Someone knocked the dial off with a hammer or some other heavy object.”

“Anything else?”

“Oh my gosh, the bolt is out.”

“Sure, how do you open a safe if the bolt is out and the dial is inoperative?”

“Sure looks strange to me, Orson.”

“Get the camera and document every part of this safe and the closet. Take at least a full roll of film with close ups of the safe, the dial and the dead bolt as well as the area surrounding the safe. I’m going to talk with the man outside who said he owned the house and the diamonds that were supposed to be in the safe if the Paramedics let me – he was claiming heart problems when I left.”

As he walked out of the house Campizi was formulating the questions he would ask Levonyan. His investigation of the fire scene raised serious concerns. There was no question the fire was intentionally set. The fire, as set, was not professional and, he believed, probably caused some injury to the person who started the fire. The excessive amount of gasoline used to accelerate the fire, indicated an intent to totally destroy the house and leave no physical evidence. The damage, because of the water-drop, was much less than expected by the arsonist. A great deal of physical evidence had been left for the investigators to collect and inventory. The actions, and attitude of the victim, were unusual.  Several red flags of an arson for profit had been raised, not the least of which the fact that the children and dogs were not at home. It would be a most interesting interview.

Campise did not know, and would not learn for many years after the investigation began, what events brought about the fire and how and why Levonyan plotted with his eldest son and others to set fire to his dwelling. Levonyan was in full performance mode attempting to look the part of a victim of a vicious crime.
Campizi found Dickran Levonyan laid out on a Gurney with a saline solution IV in his arm. He approached the Paramedic, Firefighter Ann Vincent first.

“Why the I.V., Ann?”

“He was hysterical, complaining about his heart and beating on the ground.” The paramedic whispered. “I put an EKG on him and he has a healthy and steady heartbeat. His chances are greater of passing out from the booze he consumed at that dinner dance than from a heart attack, so to calm him down I laid him on the Gurney and inserted the IV. He thinks he’s being treated for a serious heart condition and is now being a good patient. I’ll take it out after your finish your investigation.”

“Do you have any problem with me talking to him?”

“No. As long as you don’t upset him.”

“Then, perhaps I better speak to the wife because when he learns his safe is empty he will go through the roof.”

“Probably wise, Orson.”

Orson Campizi, looked over to the Lincoln Town Car that Levonyan had driven up in and saw in the front passenger seat a large woman, almost as broad as she was tall, dressed in a shapeless print dress, softly crying. Behind her, trying to give comfort by patting her on the shoulder was a 15-year-old boy with shoulder length black hair, deep black eyes, a large hooked nose and ears that stood out from his head like semaphore flags.

Orson approached the car in a calm, easy amble trying to show concern and be as nonthreatening as possible. He introduced himself to Mrs. Levonyan and her young son in a soft voice that was just slightly louder than a whisper.

“Mrs. Levonyan, are you able to answer a few of my questions?”

“My English is not so good, but my son, Hrant will help me if I don’t understand you.”

“I appreciate your assistance, your husband won’t be able to answer any of my questions until he calms down.”

“Dickran is a very emotional person. He worked very hard to buy this house, our first house in America.”

“How long have you been in America?”

“We first came here in 1985.”

“How long has your family lived at this house?”

“Since 1987.”

“Who lives here?”

“My husband, me and our three sons.”

“Where are your other two sons?”

“They are older than Hrant. They both have cars and girlfriends. I don’t know where they are. They left the house long before we went to the dinner dance.”

“Mrs. Levonyan, has your husband made any enemies since you came to the U.S.?”

“No. Why do you ask?”

“The fire at your house was not an accident.” Campizi responded. “Someone spread a great deal of gasoline throughout your house and set it afire.”

“My God!” Anahid Levonyan gasped. “Why would anyone do such a thing to us?”

“That is why I am asking you.”

“It must have been the K.G.B.” Anahid whispered. “They hated Dickran. They forced us to leave Yerevan in 1985 and our beautiful two-story stone house. Now they take another house from us. They are evil.”

“The K.G.B.?” Campizi asked, with shock. “Why, more than ten years later would they burn your house?”

“The K.G.B. have long memories. They hate capitalism. Anyone who makes or saves any money they take it away.”

“Have you been threatened?”

“No. They never warn you.”

“Did your husband have any contact with the K.G.B. since you left Russia?”

“No.”

“Then why do you think it was the K.G.B.?”

“Because we have only friends here. Why would anyone burn the house down? If it’s not the K.G.B., it’s crazy.”

“Your husband, is he in the jewelry business?”

“He owns three gas stations, a gasoline distribution company and buys and sells diamonds.”

“Then why did he ask me to look for the diamonds in the house?”

“You must understand young fireman – we come from a terrible place – Soviet Armenia. In Armenia it is not proper to own anything. If you are rich, you are a criminal. If you do business for profit, you are a criminal. You cannot put money in a bank because the bank will tell the K.G.B. and you will find yourself in Siberia making big rocks into little rocks. So when you make a profit, you change the money into very valuable things that can be easily moved. My husband, in Armenia, was an engineer who made 400 rubles a month. But he was also brilliant. When he did not work as an engineer, he bought and sold things. He made much money and he changed that money into diamonds. The K.G.B. never knew how we got the diamonds from Armenia to the United States. I personally, in my brassiere took over 50 diamonds. Others were hidden in the furniture and the children’s toys. We were not poor when we came to the U.S. The diamonds let us buy the gas stations.”

“Do any of your fellow-immigrants from Armenia know you brought diamonds with you?”

“No.”

“Does anyone outside your family know there were diamonds in the house?”

“No.”

“Wait a minute,” Young Hrant interrupted. “What do you mean, diamonds ‘were’ in the house? The diamonds are in the floor safe.”

“I’m sorry to tell you this, young man, but they are not. We found the safe, the door was open and there was nothing in the safe but the water the firefighters used to put out the fire.”

“Oh, no! When Dad hears about this he’ll have a heart attack.”

“That’s why I came to talk to the two of you. I will let you give him the answer when he is able to hear it.”

A four-wheel drive, Black and Tan Eddie Bauer Edition Bronco drove up with an 18-year-old man and a 100-pound, ebony Doberman Pincher in the back. Hovsep Levonyan arrived with a deep rumble of the powerful 5.0 liter V-8 engine pulled up beside the Town Car.”

“Mom. What’s going on?” Hovsep shouted out the open window. “Why are you sitting in the car?”

“Please turn off your engine and come down here young man.” Campizi said. “And I will explain everything to you.”

“Who are you?” Hovsep “Joe” Levonyan asked as he climbed down out of his truck, being certain to keep the dog in the back seat. The dog growled and bared his teeth at Campizi suggesting he would like to have a part of Campizi’s calf as a midnight snack.

Campizi introduced himself and told Hovsep about the fire while memorizing the details of the broad chested, well-muscled Hovsep as he came out of the Bronco. He closely resembled his father, although he had a full head of wavy blue-black hair and no birthmark on his forehead. He was trim and in excellent physical condition where his father was pudgy and in poor physical condition. There was no question Hovsep was his father’s son.

“I am the leader of the arson investigation team who was assigned to investigate the fire at your house. There is no question it was intentionally set. Do you have any idea who did it?”

“I can’t think of anyone who would want to do so, unless it was Sarkis Nashrallian.”

“Who is Nashrallian?”

“He is a gasoline distributor out of Bakersfield. My father, even though they are both Armenian, will not deal with him.”

“Why?”

“Because Nashrallian wants him to sell farm diesel fuel for him as if it were regular diesel and split the tax collected with Nashrallian since farm diesel pays no federal taxes.”

“How do you know about this?”

“I have worked in my father’s stations since I was 14. I now manage one and help my dad in the gas distribution business.”

“Has Nashrallian ever threatened your father?”

“Not in my presence.”

“Has your father ever told you about his dealings, or lack of dealings with Nashrallian?”

“No.”

“Mrs. Levonyan, tell me what you know about Nashrallian?”

“Nothing.” Anahid replied. “You must understand – Armenian men do not discuss business with women – we cook and clean and bear children, but we never discuss business.”

“If your husband had been threatened by a competitor, would he tell you?”

“Never.”

“Would he tell your sons?”

Hovsep responded for his mother. “If he thought it useful for us to know, he would tell us. For example, when the Burbank police learned that some members of the 13th Street Gang were moving up to Burbank to knock off service stations for their cash, he told me so that I was better prepared and armed and ready if they came to our station. Dad warned me when he heard it from the P.D.”

“Did your father ever mention any concerns about the K.G.B.?”

“Many times. He has hated them since they tossed us out of Armenia. If he hears anyone speak Russian, a language in which he is fluent, he believes they are the K.G.B. and will either leave the room or be totally silent until the Russian speaker leaves the room.”

“Has anyone ever threatened your family or its house?”

Anahid and Hovsep responded, simultaneously, as if rehearsed: “Of course not, Dickran Levonyan is loved and respected in this community.”

“I’m sure he is. Do you have any idea, Mrs. Levonyan, who might want to set fire to your house?”

“None at all.”

“Who takes care of your financial affairs, who pays the bills for the house?”

“Dickran, who else?”

“Has Dickran spoken to you about any difficulties he or the business is having?”

“No.”

“In fact,” Hovsep interposed. “The gas stations are doing very well. I just hired a new service person and opened a third shift from 10:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. because business is so good. We have the most gallonage ARCO sells in all of its Los Angeles stations.”

“Do you have insurance?”

“We must – isn’t it required as part of the mortgage?”

“I don’t know, Mrs. Levonyan, I’m a firefighter not an insurance man. Do you have an insurance agent – perhaps I can call that person for an answer.”

“Yes. He was at the house two months ago and I served him coffee and some Greek Baklava I had purchased that day.”

“What is his name?”

“Dickran didn’t want me involved in any of his businesses, but I believe his name was Baron Dersogian.”

“His first name is ‘Baron.’”

“No, Baron in Armenian means the same as ‘Mr.’ in English.”

“I see, so what is his full name?”

“I believe it is Baron Hrant Dersogian. I remember because he has the same first name as my son.”

“Why was Mr. Dersogian at your house two months ago?”

“He and my husband are friends. They sit in the den for hours at a time playing chess or dominoes.”

“How long has he been your insurance agent?”

“Since the day we bought the house and our first gas station. It was then that we first learned that insurance is required.”

“Do you know anything about the insurance you purchased?”

“No, my husband handles that with Dersogian.”

“Well, I don’t want to keep you longer. It is late. Please, young man, get your father and drive him, your mother and brother down to the Hyatt in Encino and get a good night sleep. I will call there tomorrow and make an appointment when I can speak to all of you.”

“You are very kind, Mr. Campizi. I’ll take care of the folks.”

“Your insurance should take care of the cost of the hotel. I’d call your agent first thing in the morning.”

Campizi went back to the scene to help his partner, Tomas Fedorian finish the scene investigation. He watched as Hovsep helped his father off the Gurney and into the Lincoln. It was 2:00 a.m., Campizi hadn’t slept, and his last meal was a gulped down Burger King hamburger at 4:00 in the afternoon the day before.

Someone had brought some doughnuts to the fire suppression team and he grabbed a cup of coffee and a twist doughnut as he went back into the house.

“Find anything new, Tom?”

“Same old thing we see in every fire. But there were some strange things I took photos of – come here into the living room, Orson.”

“O.K. what am I supposed to see here other than the windows blown out into the pool.”

“Look down at the carpet. You see the flammable liquid trail leading from the east corner of the room?”

“Yes. So. There should be no question that this was arson. We have enough gasoline left over to start another fire.”

“Look where the trail starts.”

“I see.” Said Campizi, as if he had come upon the proof of Einstein’s theory of relativity. “The carpet has the mark of a heavy, rectangular object in a place where most people would put a large T.V., across from their sofas. Did those idiots on the fire suppression team overhaul the site before we finished?”

“Not a chance, they’re outside munching on doughnuts, waiting for my O.K. before they even come in the house.”

“So, where’s the T.V.?”

“I’ve looked all over. It’s gone. There is nothing left. The fire was put out too quick and wasn’t hot enough to do away with a big-screen T.V. or even an overstuffed chair.”

“Anything else seems to be missing?”

“Well, there are places on the wall with nails sticking out but no pictures. There are bookshelves that are empty. The refrigerator has little in it but some bread and a few tinfoil wrapped leftovers. I found a dead cat, some dead pigeons, but no sign of a dog.”

“Well, one of the dogs was outside in the car with the 18-year-old son, Hovsep.”

“How interesting.”

“It seems we may have an arson-for-profit here, partner.”

“That’s what it seems to me. I’ve taken two 36 picture rolls of film. I think I better take some more so we can document everything that is left in this house and then compare notes with the insurance company. We may never prove who did the fire, but we can help get them on the insurance fraud charge if they try to make claim for things that aren’t here.”

“I’ll get the shop light and video camera from my car so we don’t miss anything that the still camera doesn’t show.  After we finish with the photos I will use the video camera so we can videotape the entire scene and get pictures of items the still camera might not obtain. Then I  want to do that again as soon as the sun comes up.”

“It looks like we have a long night ahead of us Orson. I’ll tell the Captain to send back all but one engine company, in case of a rekindle, because this investigation is going to take longer than usual.”


© 2017 – Barry Zalma

Barry Zalma, Esq., CFE, now limits his practice to service as an insurance consultant and expert witness specializing in insurance coverage, insurance claims handling, insurance bad faith and insurance fraud almost equally for insurers and policyholders. He also serves as an arbitrator or mediator for insurance related disputes. He practiced law in California for more than 44 years as an insurance coverage and claims handling lawyer and more than 49 years in the insurance business.

Mr. Zalma is the first recipient of the first annual Claims Magazine/ACE Legend Award.

Check in on Zalma’s Insurance 101 – a Videoblog – that allows your people to learn about insurance in three to four minute increments at http://www.zalma.com/videoblog

Look to National Underwriter Company for the new Zalma Insurance Claims Library,  at www.nationalunderwriter.com/ZalmaLibrary  The new books are Insurance Law, Mold Claims Coverage Guide, Construction Defects Coverage Guide and Insurance Claims: A Comprehensive Guide

The American Bar Association, Tort & Insurance Practice Section has published Mr. Zalma’s book “The Insurance Fraud Deskbook” available at  http://shop.americanbar.org/eBus/Store/ProductDetails.aspx?productId=214624, or 800-285-2221 which is presently available and “Diminution of Value Damages” available at http://shop.americanbar.org/eBus/Store/ProductDetails.aspx?productId=203226972

Mr. Zalma’s three new e-books  were recently added and are available at http://www.zalma.com/zalmabooks.html

Mr. Zalma’s reports can be found on Tumbler at https://www.tumblr.com/search/zalma,  on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/barry.zalma and you can follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/bzalma

Legal Disclaimer:

The author and publisher disclaim any liability, loss, or risk incurred as a consequence, directly or indirectly, of the use and application of any of the contents of this blog. The information provided is not a substitute for the advice of a competent insurance, legal, or other professional. The Information provided at this site should not be relied on as legal advice. Legal advice cannot be given without full consideration of all relevant information relating to an individual situation.

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Arson for Profit – Chapter 8

Arson for Profit

Chapter 8

Insurance Fraud For Profit

Sam Hazan took off his steel-rimmed glasses and rubbed his eyes. Staring at the examination under oath witness across the conference room table with his watery hazel green eyes Hazan only saw a fuzzy wraith with short-cropped reddish blond hair, a blue sports shirt and black Levi’s. Hazan had learned, over the years, that myopia was an advantage to a lawyer interrogating a witness. Because of the concentration needed to see anything, without the aid of glasses, it seemed to the person he was facing that Hazan was looking into his soul never knowing he saw very little.

For two hours Hazan asked unimportant questions about the background of the witness and his business to establish rapport and relax the witness. Just before a short bathroom break in the examination under oath, the witness had begun to relax and joke with Hazan. He had forgotten the instructions given him by his lawyer and was starting to respond to questions in a narrative rather than single word answers.

It was time to spring the trap.

The witness, Andrew Winslow, owned Winslow Manufacturing Jewelers in Arcadia. He had purchased a policy of Jewelers’ Block Insurance four months before to protect, what he claimed was an inventory of $1,300,000 in gold and diamond jewelry. Winslow was a handsome, thirty year old man with slicked-back straight blonde hair, soft blue eyes and an aquiline nose that had been broken years before and set improperly. He was comfortable, spoke English clearly and had answered all questions posed to him directly and without hesitation.

Winslow had reported to his insurer, Jewelers Select Insurance Company, that thirty days after the day the policy was delivered, over the New Year’s long weekend, burglars had defeated his alarm system by killing the power to the entire building, entered his store and drilled out his TRTL 30 safe (an operation that takes an experienced safe burglar a minimum of thirty minutes with the proper tools). When he arrived at his store on January 2, his entire inventory was gone. His claim, for $1,300,000 was supported by records, including a physical inventory he had taken for the purpose of buying the insurance.

Everything about the claim appeared honest. Jewelers Select was ready to make payment when the Investigator, Marion Orpheus Montague suggested that Jewelers Select retain Hazan to conduct an examination under oath of Winslow. Trusting MOM’s hunch Jewelers Select decided it was reasonable to invest the legal fees to be certain they owed a $1,300,000 claim. Hazan had collected from Winslow all of his documents, and had studied each carefully for 16 hours the three days before the examination under oath was to begin. He knew Winslow’s business better than Winslow. He was totally prepared to effectively examine him under oath.
The examination had begun with an explanation of the procedure so that there was no question the witness understood his duties and obligations and so that the fear of being before an attorney could be removed. Sitting beside Hazan, MOM, like a bearded Buddah contemplated the witness with an enigmatic smile and occasionally passed a note to Hazan suggesting a follow-up question.

After obtaining Winslow’s full name, address, date of birth and place of birth Hazan began his examination benignly:

“Have you ever testified before Mr. Winslow?”

“No.”

“Since you have never testified under oath, I will try to  explain the purpose of this proceeding.”

“Please, I would like to know since I am a victim of a burglary and now my insurance company is making me be with you although there is no question that I incurred a loss.”

“I understand, Mr. Winslow. You must understand that you have presented a claim for a most unusual safe-burglary that is a very rare occurrence in the jewelry insurance business. When you purchased the policy from my client, the Jewelers Select Insurance Company, you made several promises. One of those promises was that, if you presented a claim and if Jewelers Select asked, you would appear for an examination under oath. We are not adversaries. No one has sued anyone. This is part of the investigation of your insurance company so it can resolve some disturbing facts that I outlined to you in my letter.”

Two hours after explaining the procedure Hazan was ready to obtain the testimony that would establish that either the claim was honest or that it, and the policy, was a fraud. He began:

“When you bought your policy Mr. Winslow you signed an application – called a ‘Proposal for Jewelers’ Block Insurance’ – that was the basis of the policy, do you remember.”

“Yes.”

“And you answered each question in the Proposal honestly and completely, just as you are answering my questions today, didn’t you?”

“To the best of my ability.”

“And when you informed the Jewelers Select Insurance Company that you had an inventory of $1,300,000 after taking an inventory on December 1, you were basing that statement on an actual physical inventory you personally conducted with your staff, isn’t that true?”

“Yes.”

“Did your inventory, because of the Christmas selling season change between November and December 31?”

“No, because I kept buying inventory to replace that which I sold. I believe the records of my purchases and sales show, if anything, the inventory was slightly more than $1,300,000 at the end of the year.”

Your sales in December were $55,462, correct?”

“Yes.”

And you purchased, in December, $62,504 in merchandise, correct?

“Yes.”

“Did you take in any extra merchandise on consignment – memo – in the month of December?”

“No.”

“So, at the end of the year, December 31 the inventory was still approximately $1,300,000?

“Yes, that’s what my accountants tell me.”

“If I accept as accurate your November inventory, the addition of all purchases and subtraction of all sales reflected an inventory on December 31 of $1,326,241. Is that also your understanding?”

“Yes.”

“And, in April this year you filed a federal income tax return like the rest of us, didn’t you?”

“Of course, I had my lawyer mail you a copy a week ago, did you get it?

“Yes sir, I did. Here is a copy of it.” Hazan handed a copy of the tax return to Winslow and asked: “Would you look at that document, which I will mark as Exhibit “D” to this examination under oath, and tell me if that is an accurate copy of the original?”

“It looks just like the one I signed and that is a copy of my signature on the form.”

“Were you as honest with the IRS as you have been with me today?”

“Of course, only an idiot would try to lie to the IRS. They have too much power.”

“I agree. But the tax return causes me some confusion. I would appreciate any help you can give me get over the confusion. Please look at page 2 of form 1065, U.S. Partnership Return of Income. On line seven of that form is a place that requires a statement, under oath, of the value your inventory at the end of the year. Do you see that line?”

Winslow, looking at the line, finally saw where all of Hazan’s questions were leading. He became infuriated and tried to sidetrack the interrogation. “I am exhausted! Mr. Hazan, you ask questions that have nothing to do with the burglary of my store. Jewelers Select Insurance Company has treated me unfairly and without respect. I have no intention to answer any more questions. Just pay my claim or I will have my lawyers file suit for breach of contract and the tort of bad faith.”

“I’m sorry you are upset, Mr. Winslow, but as I advised you at the beginning of the day, you made a promise to your insurance company that you would answer all relevant questions I ask you. The last question was not difficult. It was relevant. I would prefer that you not forfeit your rights under the policy just because you are a little tired. So let’s take a break, go for a walk outside with your lawyer, ask him about the effect of your failure to answer my question, smoke a cigarette if you smoke or get a coke at the Del Taco across the street. Then, after you have calmed down and had the advice of your lawyer we can continue – or not  – as you desire.”

After Winslow and his lawyer left the room, MOM and Hazan sipped at hot, strong coffee and discussed the results of the interrogation to that point in time. “Samuel, you are a cold-hearted devil.”

“Thank you, MOM, you are so kind.”

“His lawyer, apparently, didn’t read the tax return before he handed it to you.”

“I almost missed it myself.”

“How could he give us a tax return that swears his total inventory, on the day before the theft was only $20,000?” MOM asked, rubbing his beard, smoothing his moustache and smiling.

“It’s simple, people are so inured in the need to cheat on their taxes, especially when they have done so for many years – and you did notice, didn’t you, that the $20,000 ending inventory was used on his last three years of tax returns – that they can’t stop.”

“I would like to be sitting next to them at the Del Taco, Sam, just to hear what his lawyer says to him.”

“So would I. If I were his lawyer, I would have a difficult time giving him proper advice.”

“It seems he has three choices open to him: he admits he lied to his insurer and loses his right to make claim; he admits he lied on his tax returns and faces the wrath of the IRS, or he bluffs, leaves the room and files suit.” MOM speculated.

“He has one other choice, MOM, he could try to negotiate a settlement with us so that the transcript of these proceedings is never prepared. I would prefer to have my client deal with an insurance company than face criminal charges from the IRS. That’s what I would try.”

“We’ll see, soon enough. They’re coming back.”

Winslow and his lawyer returned and the lawyer asked for a private conference with Mr. Hazan. Within an hour, after making a call to Minnesota to speak with the claims manager for Jewelers Select, a settlement was reached for the $20,000 amount of inventory stated on Winslow’s tax return rather than the amount Winslow claimed was his real loss. Before Winslow and his lawyer left Sam’s office he prepared a release on his word processor, presented to Winslow and watched as Winslow and his lawyer signed the release. The release, as a bonus for the settlement, Winslow promised to never again attempt to buy insurance from Jewelers Select Insurance Company.

MOM and Hazan held a postmortem after Winslow and his lawyer left.

“I hate paying a claim to a cheat.” MOM said, rubbing his belly.

“Did you get close to him when they returned from the Del Taco?”

“No, why do you ask?”

“I knew they would take your option and try to settle when they arrived. In addition to the smell of a beef and bean burrito I smelled the sour smell of stress perspiration on both Winslow and his lawyer. That’s why I agreed to meet privately with counsel before going forward with the examination. He was angry, not with me, but with his client. He wanted out but needed to protect his client as best he could.”

Practicing law with a client who is attempting fraud is a difficult place for a lawyer. Once the representation is taken, it cannot be cancelled in midstream. Even if the lawyer thinks the client is despicable the lawyer must represent his client to the best of his ability. He knew, as soon as he looked at the inventory line on the tax return that his client was not being honest with him and the insurer.  When the meeting started, with neither client in the room, the offer was made to walk from the claim.

The lawyer, an honest person, had no option and could not ethically pursue a claim in excess of the amount stated on the tax return.

MOM, since he could not be part of the negotiations between counsel, replied: “Yes, but we know he was really the victim of a safe burglary and probably really lost more than $1,000,000 in merchandise. Cheating the IRS cost him more than he would have paid in taxes if he was honest.”

“He was a cheat. His records were clearly unreliable. There is no way he could have complied with the condition of the policy requiring his records to prove the exact amount of the loss.”

“I know, MOM, but if he and his lawyer were sufficiently knowledgeable about how ineffective the IRS is, how often the IRS ignores our reports to them and how often juries rule against insurance companies regardless of the facts, he would have sued. And if he sued, there is no question that Jewelers Select would spend more to defend the suit than the amount of our settlement.”

“It doesn’t make it right, Sam.”

“I’ll leave it to the state to make it right, my job is to protect Jewelers Select.”

“Well, we have to update the Fraud Division since I filed the required report with the California Department of Insurance, Fraud Division. They need to know we settled and that the fact of the settlement is the equivalent of an admission.”

“Unfortunately, from our experience, they will just file the information away and do nothing.”

“Of course.”

“Regardless, we will tell them, as the statute requires, about the settlement and why it was effected for so little money. If they conclude the crime of insurance fraud occurred and wish to demand the entire file, you, Jewelers Select and I will comply with the law. If they are uninterested, we will simply close the file and consider this a job well-done leaving us time to work on the next one.”

“I’ll prepare a follow-up report. Perhaps the Special Operations Unit at the Fraud Division will have an investigator willing to prosecute such an egregious example of insurance fraud and tax fraud. I doubt it, but I will try.”

“Time to go home, MOM.”


© 2017 – Barry Zalma

Barry Zalma, Esq., CFE, now limits his practice to service as an insurance consultant and expert witness specializing in insurance coverage, insurance claims handling, insurance bad faith and insurance fraud almost equally for insurers and policyholders. He also serves as an arbitrator or mediator for insurance related disputes. He practiced law in California for more than 44 years as an insurance coverage and claims handling lawyer and more than 49 years in the insurance business.

Mr. Zalma is the first recipient of the first annual Claims Magazine/ACE Legend Award.

Check in on Zalma’s Insurance 101 – a Videoblog – that allows your people to learn about insurance in three to four minute increments at http://www.zalma.com/videoblog

Look to National Underwriter Company for the new Zalma Insurance Claims Library,  at www.nationalunderwriter.com/ZalmaLibrary  The new books are Insurance Law, Mold Claims Coverage Guide, Construction Defects Coverage Guide and Insurance Claims: A Comprehensive Guide

The American Bar Association, Tort & Insurance Practice Section has published Mr. Zalma’s book “The Insurance Fraud Deskbook” available at  http://shop.americanbar.org/eBus/Store/ProductDetails.aspx?productId=214624, or 800-285-2221 which is presently available and “Diminution of Value Damages” available at http://shop.americanbar.org/eBus/Store/ProductDetails.aspx?productId=203226972

Mr. Zalma’s three new e-books  were recently added and are available at http://www.zalma.com/zalmabooks.html

Mr. Zalma’s reports can be found on Tumbler at https://www.tumblr.com/search/zalma,  on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/barry.zalma and you can follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/bzalma

Legal Disclaimer:

The author and publisher disclaim any liability, loss, or risk incurred as a consequence, directly or indirectly, of the use and application of any of the contents of this blog. The information provided is not a substitute for the advice of a competent insurance, legal, or other professional. The Information provided at this site should not be relied on as legal advice. Legal advice cannot be given without full consideration of all relevant information relating to an individual situation.

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Arson for Profit – Chapter 7

Arson for Profit

Chapter 7

The Plan

In the three months after the policy was purchased Dickran Levonyan worked to prepare his house and goods to maximize the profits from the fire he knew would occur. He  visited his local “Save ‘N Pick” store where he bought sets of cheap, close-out china for 30 cents a place setting. He also purchased framed prints from failed art stores at $2.00 per print and other items of like value to fill his house with items similar to those described on the policy.

The real china, art and Persian rugs he stored in an “U-Store-It-We-Hold-It” facility at the bottom of the hill on Ventura Boulevard. His house was still full of furniture and furnishings gathered from “Save ‘N Pick,” the Salvation Army or the Goodwill Industries stores. All of the family photographs and irreplaceable items were stored away.

After completing his preparations Dickran telephoned his insurance agent and co-conspirator Harry Dersogian and said:

“Harry, I’m ready. What do I do next?”

“Not on the telephone, Baron Levonyan.  I will visit your home tomorrow at 11:00 a.m. and we will discuss your insurance program.” Dersogian immediately hung up the telephone.

The next morning, promptly at 11:00 a.m. Dersogian arrived at the front door. Dickran had already made certain his wife was out shopping and the children were occupied elsewhere.

Levonyan and the insurance agent toured the house so Dersogian could review the preparations.

“You have done a lovely job of filling the house with materials that appear to be valuable. Did you, as I asked, take photographs of all of the valuable items described on the appraisal?”

“Of course. And as you advised, before taking the pictures I rubbed some Vaseline on the lens to make it look like the items were out of focus. The pictures are wonderful and show very little.”

“Place the pictures in the safe at your gas station for safekeeping.”

“They are there now?”

“It is time now to have a fire and collect the money for the cause. With what the insurance companies’ pay you the organization will be able to buy weapons, explosives and support a team of men who can exact revenge on the unholy Turks.”

“My family and I are ready.” Dickran replied, scratching the mark on his forehead.

“When shall we have the fire?”

Dersogian, looking at the unkempt house filled with cheap furniture and porcelain from the Goodwill Store or the Salvation Army Store, concluded the fire must be one that destroys all of the contents or the insurance investigators will discover their plan. He pulled out his kerchief, wiped his brow that was beaded with perspiration from the heat of a Los Angeles Summer, and said: “This Sunday. The Los Angeles Armenian Businessman’s Association is holding a dinner dance.”

“I went last year. The most boring event I have attended since I left Yerevan.”

“You will go again, this year with your wife and 14-year-old son. The house must be empty or some member of your family will be hurt.”

Dickran looked at Dersogian as if he were insane. “How do you propose I compel a teenager – who has become totally American – to come with me to an Armenian Business Man’s Association dinner dance?”

“You must or your son will die.”

“Anahid is a very persuasive woman. I’m certain she can convince him if the bribe is sufficient.”

“The dance, Baron Levonyan,” Dersogian reminded “will give you an unbreakable alibi. No one will suspect you.”

“The plan was explained to my eldest son, Levon. He will start the fire. He is an intelligent and efficient young man who has taken over the operation of my Gas Station in El Monte.”

“Has he studied enough about fire to do an effective job? The house must be destroyed.”

“What is there to know?”

“Fire, especially when gasoline is used, is a fickle element. It can burn too fast and leave much evidence. It can explode if there are sufficient fumes. It can kill.”

“I thought he only need spread the gasoline and throw in a match?”

“If he does so there is a good chance you will bury a son.”

“You are my advisor. How do I protect my son.”

Dersogian looked pensive. He reached into his suit-coat inside pocket and removed a smart phone, opened it and typed a few words on the diminutive keyboard with his index finger. Looking at the screen he walked to the telephone and dialed a number. He mumbled on the telephone and then returned to where Dickran waited for him.

“I have arranged for an expert from the ANPA to meet your son tomorrow morning at the El Monte Denny’s Restaurant. He will provide your son with enough information to safely burn the house. The ANPA operative can’t do it for you since they are all wanted by the police.”

“Thank you, Baron Dersogian. It is now time for you to leave before my wife and younger children arrive. I must prepare for the weekend.”


© 2017 – Barry Zalma

Barry Zalma, Esq., CFE, now limits his practice to service as an insurance consultant and expert witness specializing in insurance coverage, insurance claims handling, insurance bad faith and insurance fraud almost equally for insurers and policyholders. He also serves as an arbitrator or mediator for insurance related disputes. He practiced law in California for more than 44 years as an insurance coverage and claims handling lawyer and more than 49 years in the insurance business.

Mr. Zalma is the first recipient of the first annual Claims Magazine/ACE Legend Award.

Check in on Zalma’s Insurance 101 – a Videoblog – that allows your people to learn about insurance in three to four minute increments at http://www.zalma.com/videoblog

Look to National Underwriter Company for the new Zalma Insurance Claims Library,  at www.nationalunderwriter.com/ZalmaLibrary  The new books are Insurance Law, Mold Claims Coverage Guide, Construction Defects Coverage Guide and Insurance Claims: A Comprehensive Guide

The American Bar Association, Tort & Insurance Practice Section has published Mr. Zalma’s book “The Insurance Fraud Deskbook” available at  http://shop.americanbar.org/eBus/Store/ProductDetails.aspx?productId=214624, or 800-285-2221 which is presently available and “Diminution of Value Damages” available at http://shop.americanbar.org/eBus/Store/ProductDetails.aspx?productId=203226972

Mr. Zalma’s three new e-books  were recently added and are available at http://www.zalma.com/zalmabooks.html

Mr. Zalma’s reports can be found on Tumbler at https://www.tumblr.com/search/zalma,  on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/barry.zalma and you can follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/bzalma

Legal Disclaimer:

The author and publisher disclaim any liability, loss, or risk incurred as a consequence, directly or indirectly, of the use and application of any of the contents of this blog. The information provided is not a substitute for the advice of a competent insurance, legal, or other professional. The Information provided at this site should not be relied on as legal advice. Legal advice cannot be given without full consideration of all relevant information relating to an individual situation.

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Arson for Profit – Chapter 6

Arson for Profit

Chapter 6

Levonyan Places Insurance at Lloyd’s

Richard Scott de Camp arrived at his box at Lloyd’s at 10:15 a.m. after an hour-long train ride from his cottage in the Village of St. Mary Axe on the South West Coast of England. He was dressed in his usual dark blue suit with white stripes, a white shirt, Eton tie, canary yellow stockings (his one mark against conformity) and black Wellington boots. He carried a small leather folder with two pieces of paper and a large golfing umbrella. As he rode the escalators up three flights from the ground level Marine trading floor to the second floor where the non-marine syndicates sat, he was, as Gilbert and Sullivan might say, the “model of an English Gentleman Underwriter.”

De Camp sat on the corner of the bench, hooked his umbrella on the four-foot high glass and chrome wall that protected Underwriters and brokers from falling three flights to the Lutine Bell below, and nodded to the first broker in the queue to approach and make his presentation. In his first hour at the box he accepted 5% of the fire insurance on a nuclear reactor in the South of France, took the leading position – 7% – on a jeweler’s block policy in Monaco, and agreed to insure the dwelling of a dry cleaner in Rockford, Illinois. Richard had an 11:30 appointment for coffee with a visiting claims handler from Brisbane, Australia when he was approached by Alastair Finney, a broker with one of the major London brokerages. Finney was a total pain in the ass. A person who was never satisfied and who always made the work of the underwriter difficult. He sat his 15 stone heavily on the stool beside the bench set aside for brokers, and wheezed:

“Good morning, Richard. I hope you are in a good humor for I have an excellent risk to present to you today that I am certain you wish to lead.”

“Alastair, you know quite well, I am always in a good humor.”

“Then allow me to present a slip concerning an American, Mr. Dickran Levonyan.”

Finney stated calmly now that he was no longer compelled to hold his considerable bulk on his poor size seven feet clad in boots that were so tight they pinched his toes. The corns the boots caused to grow on each small toe of both feet gave him constant pain.

“Mr. Levonyan is the owner of three service stations who has approximately U.S. dollars 2,000,000 in fine arts in a fine dwelling in the hills above Los Angeles, California. The dwelling house is valued at over $3,000,000. He has never had a loss. No policy has ever been canceled and he is recommended by the American broker.”

“Who valued the property, Alastair?”

“A valuer named Krooner who operates an art and auction gallery in the very affluent area known as Sherman Oaks, in the San Fernando Valley area of Los Angeles.”

“May I see the appraisals?”

“Of course, as you can see Mr. Levonyan has a major collection of Russian art, Persian Rugs and a complete and very rare library of Russian and Armenian language books.”

“What security provisions has he taken?”

“There is a central station burglar alarm system and he has two large Doberman Pincher dogs on premises.”

“The art seems valued rather high – will he accept an actual cash value clause rather than an agreed value?”

“Of course.”

“Then you can put me down as leader and I will take 18% of the risk. Advise me when you have gained support for 100% of the risk. However, note, I will only agree the insurance if there is a TAW Burglar Alarm Warranty, a form R(A) with additional conditions for proof of loss and examination under oath added, a hotel motel warranty, and agreement, further, that no loss off premises will be insured. Further, the Assured must sign, before the policy is to be effected, an endorsement agreeing that the method of valuation is to be actual cash value at the time of loss. Finally, the Assured must pay for an inspection by an inspector of my choice.”

“You are very difficult, Richard. I think I can get agreement to everything you ask but the cost of an inspector may make the price of the insurance too dear. I am sure I can get the rest of the market to place the insurance without such a requirement.”

“Get the rest of the market to agree and I will, if the American Broker is willing to explain the reasons for his recommendations and his personal knowledge of the Assured.”

“Done.”

“Now, if you will excuse me, I must meander down to the Captain’s Room to have coffee with a visitor from Australia.”

“Of course, thank you for your assistance.”

“I’m sorry that you have waited so long in the queue.” de Camp stated to the six brokers still waiting for him, “but I have committed to meet with an Australian and will return at 11:45 and will remain until 1:30 when I break for lunch.” Disappointed the brokers moved to another box on the floor where a syndicate’s underwriter might be available to hear their pitch before de Camp returned while others rode the escalators down to the Captain’s Room to get tea and biscuits.

De Camp rose, with dignity, from the small bench and rode the escalator down three flights to the Lloyd’s Coffee Shop called the “Captain’s Room.” Only invited guests, Lloyd’s Brokers, Underwriters and Underwriting Names (the people whose money was actually at risk in insurance written at Lloyd’s) were allowed to take coffee or tea in the Captains Room. Crowded as always with brokers, Underwriters and visiting dignitaries, more business was done over coffee or tea than on the trading floor.
Richard spotted the Australian and greeted him with a warm handshake.

While Richard discussed the problems of claims in Australia, Finney, with de Camp’s initials on his slip accepting 18% of the risk moved from box to box on the trading floor. By 1:00 p.m. he had obtained the initials of twelve additional syndicates who took minor positions following de Camp’s lead that added up to 100% of the risk. He omitted to advise the Underwriters’ of the other syndicates about de Camp’s concern for an inspection. By 3:00 p.m. Finney was again in de Camp’s queue waiting his turn to convince him to accept the entire policy. By 4:15 p.m. he sat again on the stool beside de Camp with his filled out slip.

“I have the agreement of twelve syndicates to follow your lead. They all agreed the insurance without a request for inspection and will take the word of the American Broker, who is well known to all of them.”

“Alastair, I am concerned, but if the insured is willing to pay a 3.2 % rate I will agree the insurance subject to a $10,000 deductible in addition to the other conditions we agreed earlier.”

“I am sure I can obtain the Assured’s agreement and will advise you, by facsimile once I obtain the agreement, to hold the policy covered for thirty days pending receipt of the premium. Our broking commission to be the usual 20%, I presume.”

“You presume correctly.”

Within three weeks, after receiving the agreement of Levonyan to the conditions set by de Camp, the American Surplus Line broker issued a certificate of insurance as evidence of the agreement by the Underwriters at Lloyd’s to insure Dickran Levonyan against the direct risk of physical loss, not excluded, of $1,500,000 in fine arts and other valuable personal property. The order was placed with the Lloyd’s policy signing office to issue a policy which would be completed, in the normal course, within three to twelve months. The Certificate, however, was immediately delivered to Dersogian who mailed it to Levonyan.

De Camp was concerned. He had no factual basis for a concern. Richard had a bad feeling and, after 25 years on the trading floor accepting all types of insurance risks, he trusted his hunches. Richard de Camp telephoned his friend, MOM, and asked if he had ever heard of Dickran.

“I have never heard of him, Richard, but can check if you want.”

“No, MOM, it’s not necessary. In any event, I have agreed to no inspection. Do you know the valuer, Krooner?”

“Yes, I know him. I investigated two jewelry losses at his gallery. I was not pleased with the losses but could prove nothing that was illegal or improper. My clients paid the claims.”

“What is his experience as a valuer?”

“Richard, as I have told you many times, we have no licensed Valuer’s in the U.S. like you do in Britain. Anyone who can afford to have stationary printed can call himself an appraiser. He is fairly competent on the values of the modern antiques and furnishing that come through his auction house. He has been selling a great deal of Russian goods since we have had a large influx of Russian immigrants. It seems the Soviet Government, in the 1970’s and 1980’s tried to make friends with our government by sending us its rejects and criminals.”

“Then, I was wise to get an actual cash value clause.”

“Absolutely. If I hear anything about Mr. Levonyan, I will telephone you.”

“Thank you MOM. If you don’t learn anything within 60 days it matters not since I will not be able to cancel.”

“I hope I helped you.”

“You did. Cheers.”


 

© 2017 – Barry Zalma

Barry Zalma, Esq., CFE, now limits his practice to service as an insurance consultant and expert witness specializing in insurance coverage, insurance claims handling, insurance bad faith and insurance fraud almost equally for insurers and policyholders. He also serves as an arbitrator or mediator for insurance related disputes. He practiced law in California for more than 44 years as an insurance coverage and claims handling lawyer and more than 49 years in the insurance business.

Mr. Zalma is the first recipient of the first annual Claims Magazine/ACE Legend Award.

Check in on Zalma’s Insurance 101 – a Videoblog – that allows your people to learn about insurance in three to four minute increments at http://www.zalma.com/videoblog

Look to National Underwriter Company for the new Zalma Insurance Claims Library,  at www.nationalunderwriter.com/ZalmaLibrary  The new books are Insurance Law, Mold Claims Coverage Guide, Construction Defects Coverage Guide and Insurance Claims: A Comprehensive Guide

The American Bar Association, Tort & Insurance Practice Section has published Mr. Zalma’s book “The Insurance Fraud Deskbook” available at  http://shop.americanbar.org/eBus/Store/ProductDetails.aspx?productId=214624, or 800-285-2221 which is presently available and “Diminution of Value Damages” available at http://shop.americanbar.org/eBus/Store/ProductDetails.aspx?productId=203226972

Mr. Zalma’s three new e-books  were recently added and are available at http://www.zalma.com/zalmabooks.html

Mr. Zalma’s reports can be found on Tumbler at https://www.tumblr.com/search/zalma,  on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/barry.zalma and you can follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/bzalma

Legal Disclaimer:

The author and publisher disclaim any liability, loss, or risk incurred as a consequence, directly or indirectly, of the use and application of any of the contents of this blog. The information provided is not a substitute for the advice of a competent insurance, legal, or other professional. The Information provided at this site should not be relied on as legal advice. Legal advice cannot be given without full consideration of all relevant information relating to an individual situation.

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Arson for Profit – Chapter 5

 Arson for Profit

Chapter 5

      Lloyd’s

While Levonyan was transforming himself into a respectable American businessman, the insurance marketplace at Lloyd’s was moving into its new building at One Lime Street.

In the latter part of the 17th century, Edward Lloyd placed a notice board with maritime information in his coffee shop near the port of London. Because he made maritime intelligence available, marine merchants gathered in his shop. These merchants eventually made agreements on the sharing of the risk of loss in shipping. The agreements were simple contracts: for a charge, the insurers would agree to pay for losses due to the perils of the sea. Each insurer would agree to pay claims in proportion to percentages chosen at the time the insurance was written, and would share in the profits of the venture, if there was no claim, in the same proportion. The insurance contract was then signed at the bottom by the people willing to take the risk, with each specifying the percentage of the risk he was taking. Since the names of the insurers were always placed under the contract terms, the insurers became known as “underwriters.”

This assembly of insurers under a single roof established Lloyd’s of London as the first insurance market, which survives today as the Corporation of Lloyd’s. The Corporation of Lloyd’s is not an insurer. It owns the building where the Underwriters transact the business of insurance. The insurers are properly known as the Underwriters at Lloyd’s, London. Lloyd’s became the cornerstone on which the modern insurance industry was built.

When Edward Lloyd died in 1712, his son-in-law, William Newton, succeeded him and the coffee shop subsequently passed through many hands. Although marine underwriters gathered there in the early 1700s, it is not clear when it became a true insurance marketplace. The best evidence suggests that Lloyd’s developed gradually as it provided increasingly comprehensive world shipping news.

Lloyd’s became more cohesive and professional over time. In 1800, its underwriting room was restricted to merchants, underwriters, insurance brokers, and bankers—all of whom needed to be recommended by two or more members. A £15 subscription fee helped control chaotic overcrowding and eliminate “undesirables.” Lloyd’s prospered with the British economy. During the Napoleonic Wars, insurance rates generated large profits. Prices of goods also moved upward, benefitting underwriters. In 1811, Lloyd’s was London’s only marine insurance market. However, with the 1812 battle of Waterloo, Lloyd’s first golden age began a steep decline.

By the 1860s, Lloyd’s still remained a small institution providing facilities for marine insurance transactions. It would take another decade before the foundation was laid for building a much stronger organization. The Lloyd’s Act of 1871 created its first detailed constitution sanctioned by Parliament and established the Lloyd’s Society as a legal entity. The act defined the Committee of Lloyd’s authority and duties, delineated rules for underwriting members, addressed punishment of members, and gave the Committee the right to grant Underwriting Room admission to persons (called “associates”) not engaged in the insurance business.

The market at Lloyd’s is a place where groups of individuals and corporations can invest in insurance. After hundreds of years it has developed a strict method of placing insurance. The membership of Lloyd’s includes a number of different types of members including individual members or “Names” who are high net worth individuals whose exposure to the insurance risks they underwrite is unlimited; corporate members formed exclusively to underwrite insurance business at Lloyd’s; another type of corporate member are Scottish limited partnerships (SLPs), which are limited partnerships established in Scotland; limited liability partnerships (LLPs) are a new category of corporate member at Lloyd’s in effect from January 2007.

An LLP is a type of corporate entity formed by being incorporated under the Limited Liability Partnerships Act 2000. The number of active members of Lloyd’s has reduced slightly in 2009: Individual members down by 15% from 907 in 2008 to 773 in 2009 and Corporate members up 7% from 1,155 in 2008 to 1,238 in 2009. A large majority of the remaining members of Lloyd’s are not actively underwriting any more. However, they must remain members of Lloyd’s until all their liabilities have been quantified and reinsured to close. While insureds received Lloyd’s policies of insurance, what they really receive are commitments from each individual, corporate, limited a liability or partnership insurer, referred to as the “Names” who agreed to subscribe to the risk. The Names are jointly and severally obligated to the insured for the percentage of the risk each has agreed to assume. The insured, if he has a dispute, need not sue each Name individually because the typical Lloyd’s policy contains a clause providing that “any [Name] can appear as representative of all [Names].” Each Name is contractually bound on an individual basis to the insured to adhere to any adverse judgment reached in a suit notwithstanding that only one Name participates in the litigation as a named party.

While an appraisal was being typed by his 15-year-old son to support a large policy Richard Scott de Camp, the person in charge of Syndicate 10226, a non-marine syndicate of insurers and Name, was enjoying dinner with two visitors from the United States.

The first, an enormous bear of a man, stood six foot three inches tall and weighed at least twenty-five stone (350 pounds), was Marion Orpheus Montague, private investigator, called “MOM” by his friends. He had a round face covered in a thin ginger colored beard that barely hid the rose of his cheeks. Montague’s spoke unaccented American which occasionally lapsed into the strange inflections of his native South Philadelphia. His suit was tailored impeccably to disguise his bulk and was set off with an outrageously loud tie.

“MOM, it has been almost a year since you last visited the Market. It is good to see you again.” De Camp opened with a toast on his first pint of a dark, house ale.
Montague raised his Stolychnaya on the rocks and responded in kind. “I need to come here often to return to reality. Los Angeles always makes it difficult for any reasonable person to keep a sane outlook.”

Seated between MOM and de Camp was a young man, silent and obviously uncomfortable, sipping but not tasting a pint of the house “bitter.”  He was a thirty-year-old man in a black pin-striped suit and wingtip shoes named Sam Hazan. It was his first visit to London (in fact, it was his first trip out of the United States). MOM had asked that he come along to meet the people he had represented in the past three years as a lawyer.

Only five years out of law school Sam Hazan had become an Associate in the prestigious Beverly Hills law firm, Guernsey, Lamb, Kropotian and Cohen, a 200-lawyer firm whose named partners had been dead for twenty years.  The firm had represented many of the major non-marine syndicates at Lloyd’s for more than 50 years and Hazan had produced excellent results for, among others, a syndicate of insurers presided over by Richard Scott de Camp.

“I understand from MOM that this is your first trip to London, Mr. Hazan.”
Hazan, hoping he could just sit, eat, listen and learn, cautiously responded in his first contact with an insurance leader: “It is, Mr. de Camp and it is a wondrous and often overwhelming city. I am pleased that MOM agreed to show me around and that you took time out from your busy schedule to meet with us.”

“It is my pleasure, Mr. Hazan. I was most interested in meeting the man who saved Underwriters $10,000,000 on the Worthington matter.”

While Hazan was trying to formulate a response that did not seem overtly self-aggrandizing de Camp studied him carefully across the dinner table allowing him time to think by taking a long pull from his glass of ale. What de Camp saw was a thirty-year-old male in fairly good physical condition who stood 6′ 2″ tall and  weighed a solid 200 lbs. His body was only beginning to show the softness in the belly that a new wife, who aimed to please with exceptionally good cooking, would invariably cause. He had a full head of tightly curled black hair and hid watery hazel eyes behind a thick pair of bifocals. It seemed to de Camp that Hazan was either playing the part of a young lawyer on the move up or was, in fact, a young lawyer on the move up.

“As much as I would like to take credit for that case, Mr. de Camp,” Hazan responded honestly, “the withdrawal of the claim was not due to skilled lawyering as much as it was to an exceptional and thorough investigation.”

“You are too modest, Sam.” MOM interrupted. “I have seen older and reportedly wiser lawyers who had not mastered interrogation techniques as well as you.”
Hazan seemed to blush through his dark complexion and heavy black beard that, although closely shaved still showed through his deeply tanned complexion.
“Richard,” Hazan responded. “MOM is being modest. What he is not telling you is how he set up poor Ms. Worthington so that she felt she had no choice but to give up. Did he tell you that during the examination under oath, just after a break, before I could ask my first question and remind her that she was under oath, MOM handed me a folder filled with blank sheets of paper. MOM whispered to me — in his deep bass that could be heard across the hall — to ask her to verify the documents.”

“No.” de Camp responded. “All I received was a report that the claim was withdrawn and I could tell all the Names that I was taking down a $10,000,000 reserve.” Leaning forward and almost dipping his tie into his beer, Richard de Camp, truly interested, asked: “Please tell me more without false modesty.”

“It was frightening.” Hazan continued. “Here I was in the middle of an examination under oath. I could tell that Ms. Worthington was having severe difficulties with some of my questions. I had contradictory reports from Mr. Montague. I intended to plod along until I obtained enough information to close the case when MOM handed me the blank papers.”

“You would not believe how cool he was when I gave him the folder, Richard.” Mom interjected. “I could feel him tense up next to me but he showed her nothing.”
Hazan, undeterred by the interruption, continued: “I was sure I was sweating. I relied on MOM’s experience, concluded he was suggesting to me it was a good time to bluff. Taking his hint worked. Before I could even ask a question, her lawyer asked for another break. They were locked in a private office for 30 minutes.  When they returned her lawyer asked to make a statement on the record of the examination. I, of course, agreed and he stated Ms. Worthington was withdrawing her claim. Since he was not under oath I asked Ms. Worthington if it was her decision to withdraw the claim and would never renew it. She agreed and, to be certain, I wrote a letter to her lawyer confirming her conclusion and had the court reporter prepare just the last two pages where she agreed and sent it to her lawyer to have her sign under penalty of perjury. When I received the signed documents I wrote my final report to you.”

“Insurance is often an interesting business. I never stop being surprised by what happens in a claim situation. No matter how long I have been in this business can ever say I have seen it all.” de Camp said.

“The fascination for me is that no case is ever the same as another.” MOM rumbled, sipping on his Stolychnya and munching on biscuits and Stilton cheese appetizer. “I could never run a grocery or a bank.  The boredom would destroy me.”
Dinner was served and the conversation lulled. The three men attacked their food like a small pride of lions on a newly killed zebra.

When coffee and dessert were served conversation, returned.

“Since I’m here, and we’re just having coffee” Hazan started the conversation “is there any American legal advice you could use?”

“Legal advice I don’t need. Advice on American insurance brokers I do need.” De Camp said.

“It’s a good thing you don’t need legal advice, Richard. Samuel has often told me that ‘free legal advice is worth what you pay for it.’ MOM interjected. “Is your inquiry about a particular broker or American brokers in general?”

“In general. As you are aware, we have a large book of Jewelers’ block and fine arts business. The brokers who have been sending business to us recently are producing more losses than not. We are booking a 300 per cent loss ratio. It is difficult to be profitable when you pay out $300 in claims for every $100 collected.”

“Is there any common thread running through all of your Jewelers’ block and fine arts business?” Mom probed.

“None, they seem different.”

“I might be able to help you, Richard, if all of the documents on all the files are made available.”

“How?”

“If I can review all of the files, I may be able to find some commonalty that would lead us to the difficulty. If the only common item is the broker then your solution may be as simple as finding a new broker.”

“It is becoming common, recently, for brokers to conspire with the Insured.” Hazan interjected. “To defraud the insurer, Richard, the combination is often difficult to defeat.”

“The brokers and insureds in your country are different from those around the world that we deal with, Mr. Hazan.” De Camp responded.

“Not as different as they are knowledgeable about insurance.” Hazan replied. “Our golden state of California is not known as the insurance fraud capital of the world for nothing.”

“Neither you nor MOM will ever lack for work from the Underwriters, then.” De Camp concluded while raising his glass unaware that he would soon be retaining Hazan and MOM on a major claim that appeared to be an arson for profit.

ZALMA-INS-CONSULT                      © 2017 – Barry Zalma

Barry Zalma, Esq., CFE, now limits his practice to service as an insurance consultant and expert witness specializing in insurance coverage, insurance claims handling, insurance bad faith and insurance fraud almost equally for insurers and policyholders. He also serves as an arbitrator or mediator for insurance related disputes. He practiced law in California for more than 44 years as an insurance coverage and claims handling lawyer and more than 49 years in the insurance business.

Mr. Zalma is the first recipient of theLEGEND-TROPHY-2 first annual Claims Magazine/ACE Legend Award.

Check in on Zalma’s Insurance 101 – a Videoblog – that allows your people to learn about insurance in three to four minute increments at http://www.zalma.com/videoblog

Look to National Underwriter Company for the new Zalma Insurance Claims Libraryat www.nationalunderwriter.com/ZalmaLibrary  The new books are Insurance Law, Mold Claims Coverage Guide, Construction Defects Coverage Guide and Insurance Claims: A Comprehensive Guide

The American Bar Association, Tort & Insurance Practice Section has published Mr. Zalma’s book “The Insurance Fraud Deskbook” available at  http://shop.americanbar.org/eBus/Store/ProductDetails.aspx?productId=214624, or 800-285-2221 which is presently available and “Diminution of Value Damages” available at http://shop.americanbar.org/eBus/Store/ProductDetails.aspx?productId=203226972

Mr. Zalma’s three new e-books  were recently added and are available at http://www.zalma.com/zalmabooks.html

Mr. Zalma’s reports can be found on Tumbler at https://www.tumblr.com/search/zalma,  on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/barry.zalma and you can follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/bzalma

Legal Disclaimer:

The author and publisher disclaim any liability, loss, or risk incurred as a consequence, directly or indirectly, of the use and application of any of the contents of this blog. The information provided is not a substitute for the advice of a competent insurance, legal, or other professional. The Information provided at this site should not be relied on as legal advice. Legal advice cannot be given without full consideration of all relevant information relating to an individual situation.

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Arson for Profit – Chapter 4

Arson for Profit

Chapter 4

The Armenian Genocide

Just before World War I millions of ethnic Armenians lived, across Mt. Ararat, in Turkey. The Turks, devout Muslims, were the most tolerant of people of other faiths anywhere  in the World except the United States. Armenians, Jews, Christians, Catholics, Coptic Christians, and Greek Orthodox Christians lived side by side in peace.

At the turn of the Century Turkish nationalism took hold of the country.  Foreigners and non-Muslim infidels were blamed for the poverty of the people of Turkey. Leaders arose who stood for the purification of Turkey and the removal of all non-Turkish peoples.

What followed was the expulsion and outright murder of millions of Armenians, Christians and Jews. Since the Armenians were the largest group of the foreigners living in Turkey they suffered the most. More than one million five-hundred thousand Armenians lost their lives during the forced deportations and outright murders. Since 1915 Armenians and Turks have disliked each other. The Turkish government continues to deny the genocide. The Armenian people, who like the Jews, were spread around the world demanded justice from the U.S. and all the other countries where ethnic Armenians settled.

A political party was formed in Armenia. Armenians across the world became members. It, like the Shin Fein in Ireland or Al Qaida in Afganistan, maintained a secret membership organization, ANPA. The Armenian organization’s purpose was to wreak revenge against the Turks. Across the world Turkish diplomats were murdered, Turkish buildings were bombed and a rein of terror was pursued with skill.

Much of the funding for the activities of this terrorist organization came from Armenians who settled in the United States and who had, unlike most in the Arminian Diaspora, found sufficient wealth to contribute to the cause. Dickran was a member in Yerevan and kept up his membership and active participation after he arrived in the United States.

For five years he operated a successful gasoline station in Los Angeles, California. With the money he obtained from selling the diamonds he brought with him from Yerevan Dickran Levonyan had purchased Sogy’s ARCO Service. He changed the name of the station to Dick’s ARCO. He added to his profits by running his customers credit cards through two and three times. He submitted the slips on different days and the customers almost never discovered that they were being charged for gas they did not buy. Dickran purchased diesel fuel from farmers (who paid no tax) and then sold it to truckers. The tax was never paid to the state and helped add to Dickran Levonyan’s wealth. He silently thanked his K.G.B. trainers for the insight they had given him into the gullibility of Americans.

With the money he earned he purchased a house, high in the hills of the Los Angeles exclusive neighborhood of Sherman Oaks, where, from the swimming pool, he could see much of the San Fernando Valley. Dickran, Anahid and the boys were living the American dream. They lacked nothing. For five years he had no problems in the United States, was a leading member of the Armenian Business Man’s Association, and had contributed to the Armenian Church enough money to allow the purchase all new pews.

The Russians had never contacted him. He had almost forgotten his promise to help them in exchange for his trip to America. In July 1990, he was visiting with his insurance agent, Harry Dersogian, to pick up a small $16,000 check from Republican American Insurance Company for damages caused by a leaking roof in his house. Dersogian smiled as he handed the check to Dickran.

“It is always a pleasure to hand money to a client as proof that insurance is worth the investment.”

“I thank you, Baron Dersogian.” Dickran, replied. “We never had insurance in Yerevan, but I have learned, with your help, how useful it is now that I am an American.”

“Baron Levonyan,” Dersogian responded, “it is amazing how much money an insurer will pay out, on trust. Every year I see millions of dollars paid to my clients. Often they are paid with little or no inquiry into the facts of the loss.”

“Yes, I was surprised when the adjuster just asked me how much money I wanted. I was so surprised that I only asked him for the money my contractor told me it would cost to complete the repair.”

“These Americans believe that insurance is a business of the utmost good faith and trust the person insured to tell them the truth. They don’t even check to see if what they are told is true.”

“How do they continue to make a profit?”

“It is simple, they calculate how much it will cost them to pay those who cheat, raise the premium the honest people pay to cover the frauds, and earn profits on the investments they hold until they are compelled to pay the claim.”

“Amazing.”

“You were a member of our Armenian National Political Association when you lived in Armenia, weren’t you?”

“Of course!” In fact, I still contribute money every year to the ANPA.”

“You may not be aware,” Dersogian said, puffing out his chest. “I am the California director of the ANPA Action Committee.”

“The Action Committee.”

“Yes.”  Dersogian responded, lowering his voice to a whisper. “We are those who are responsible for taking direct action against the Turks who tried to destroy our people.”

“You were involved in the shooting of the Turkish Counsel on the streets of Westwood?”

“We funded the effort and are raising money to defend the patriot who was caught by the L.A.P.D.”

“Why are you taking me into your confidence about these activities?”

“Because, Baron Levonyan, dear Dickran, I know you and your devotion to your country. My contacts in Yerevan told me that you reached an agreement with the K.G.B. to help, whenever asked as a condition of your trip to the U.S.”

“That is ridiculous. I am just a refugee who has been fortunate in his new country.”

“I know you must deny your involvement — remember, five years ago, when you were leaving Yerevan — your K.G. B. case worker advised you that when you were needed to help the home country someone would come to you and say ‘Votch is Ayo and Ayo is Votch’ so you would know you must respond.”

“You must be losing your mind, Baron Dersogian — ‘yes is no and no is yes’ — is that supposed to be a password?”

“You know it is and you know that person must, when you deny that you know anything about the deal with the K.G.B., show you a photograph to convince you that he is from the K.G.B. Here is the photograph.”

Dersogian handed Dickran a photograph of his house in Yerevan with Dickran and his K.G. B. caseworker standing in front of the house. It was taken as he was about to be driven to the airport for his flight to Moscow and eventual trip to the U.S. He was convinced.

“What do you want of me, Baron Dersogian?”

“The K.G.B. has temporarily stopped the use of sleepers to spy against the Americans. It wishes to make friends with the ANPA to keep peace in Armenia. They have provided us with information about you and other sleeper agents in the U.S. to help the political action committee gain vengeance against the Turks.”

“Do you want me to kill a Turk? It would be a pleasure.”

“Of course not. You are a service station owner, not a killer.”

“I am a service station owner now. But, if you don’t want me to kill a Turk, what do you want of me?”

“Money, a great deal of money.”

“But none of my money is liquid.”

“Oh, we don’t want your money, Baron Levonyan. We want your assistance in obtaining the money from stupid insurance companies.”

“How do I do that?”

“I will show you.”

“What do you want me to do now?”

“First, I want you to call Nathan Krooner, the owner of the Krooner Auction Galleries on Ventura Boulevard, to appraise your household goods as fine arts. He will charge you $500. Pay him. When you receive the appraisals, call me.”
The next day Dickran called Krooner who agreed to come to Levonyan’s house and took notes concerning the description and value of all the furniture, furnishings, art, icons, rugs and contents of his Los Angeles house. The notes were extensive and the values suggested approached $400,000.

“I will have my notes typed up, Mr. Levonyan and delivered to you in about a week.”

Krooner stated. “You must understand, however, that I cannot turn over the appraisal until I am paid.”

“How much would the appraisal cost if my son, who is an “A” student in typing, typed up your notes?”

“If I did not have to pay my typist I would only charge you $300.00 for my services.”
Dickran pulled out his wallet, counted out three $100 bills and handed them to Krooner.

“Here are my notes, and some blank pages of appraisal forms which I have signed and dated today. It has been a pleasure serving you, Mr. Levonyan.”

“You are very kind Mr. Krooner. I am pleased with the promptness.”

Dickran then sat with Mr. Krooner’s notes. He read them carefully, changed the numbers to satisfy his inflated idea of value, and gave them to his 15-year-old son to type on the forms signed by Krooner. When the modified amounts on the appraisals were typed up the values added up to one million eight-hundred thirty-two thousand, fourteen dollars. The appraisals looked very professional and the typing errors appeared, to Dickran, to be limited.

Levonyan brought the appraisal to Dersogian to start the process.

“This is excellent, Dickran” Dersogian gushed. “I did not know you were the owners of so much valuable property.”

“I am not.” Dickran responded. “I had my son type the appraisals and increased the values Krooner originally gave me. Adding a few zeros has a wonderful effect on the total value.”

“You were the right person to give this job, Dickran.”

“The right person for what?” Dickran asked. “I promised to help, but I still don’t understand how this will get money for vengeance against the Turks.”

“With this appraisal I will find for you a Personal Articles Floater policy of insurance insuring you against all risks of loss for the amounts stated on the appraisal. Because of the high values, we will probably have to go to Lloyd’s of London to get a policy. That, added to the coverage on the homeowners policy I already have for you will allow us to net over two million dollars after your house burns down in a fire.”

“My house burns down!” Dickran exclaimed. “What do you mean my house burns down? Where will my family live? How will I replace all my valuable goods?”

“The insurance company will find you a new house, better than the one you lost. All of your truly valuable goods will be in storage. You will lose nothing. The house will be rebuilt better than new and you will only give the ANPA 80% of the money you receive for the contents. The 20% you keep will be your fee for the work you have done.”

“Who will set the fire?”

“I understand you have a 20-year-old son who is quite intelligent.”

“You want me to risk the life of my son?”

“There is no danger, if he is careful.” Dersogian replied. “We need to use someone you can trust who will make sure everything is destroyed. There must be no evidence to challenge your claims of loss.”

“When?”

“We will get you the policy and should then wait, at least three months after the policy is issued so that the insurance company is not suspicious. Go home now. I will call you when it is time.”

“As you request, Baron Dersogian.” Dickran replied. “Thank you for allowing me to participate in the pursuit of vengeance against the pagan Turks.”

ZALMA-INS-CONSULT                      © 2017 – Barry Zalma

Barry Zalma, Esq., CFE, now limits his practice to service as an insurance consultant and expert witness specializing in insurance coverage, insurance claims handling, insurance bad faith and insurance fraud almost equally for insurers and policyholders. He also serves as an arbitrator or mediator for insurance related disputes. He practiced law in California for more than 44 years as an insurance coverage and claims handling lawyer and more than 49 years in the insurance business.

Mr. Zalma is the first recipient of theLEGEND-TROPHY-2 first annual Claims Magazine/ACE Legend Award.

Check in on Zalma’s Insurance 101 – a Videoblog – that allows your people to learn about insurance in three to four minute increments at http://www.zalma.com/videoblog

Look to National Underwriter Company for the new Zalma Insurance Claims Libraryat www.nationalunderwriter.com/ZalmaLibrary  The new books are Insurance Law, Mold Claims Coverage Guide, Construction Defects Coverage Guide and Insurance Claims: A Comprehensive Guide

The American Bar Association, Tort & Insurance Practice Section has published Mr. Zalma’s book “The Insurance Fraud Deskbook” available at  http://shop.americanbar.org/eBus/Store/ProductDetails.aspx?productId=214624, or 800-285-2221 which is presently available and “Diminution of Value Damages” available at http://shop.americanbar.org/eBus/Store/ProductDetails.aspx?productId=203226972

Mr. Zalma’s three new e-books  were recently added and are available at http://www.zalma.com/zalmabooks.html

Mr. Zalma’s reports can be found on Tumbler at https://www.tumblr.com/search/zalma,  on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/barry.zalma and you can follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/bzalma

Legal Disclaimer:

The author and publisher disclaim any liability, loss, or risk incurred as a consequence, directly or indirectly, of the use and application of any of the contents of this blog. The information provided is not a substitute for the advice of a competent insurance, legal, or other professional. The Information provided at this site should not be relied on as legal advice. Legal advice cannot be given without full consideration of all relevant information relating to an individual situation.

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Arson for Profit – Chapter 3

Arson for Profit

Chapter 3

America

On September  27, 1985 Dickran Levonyan, his wife Anahid and three sons Hovsep, Hrant and Levon arrived at Los Angeles International Airport as refugees. They were temporarily housed by Armenian/Soviet Jewry Relief Agency in an apartment in the new Russian Armenian community in the Fairfax district north of Melrose, in Los Angeles.

The apartment was in a 30-year-old apartment building with only eight units that seemed like a meeting place for delegates to the United Nations. In addition to Dickran’s small family was a frock-coated, yamolka-wearing, scraggly-bearded Hasidic Jew; a Soviet Jewish immigrant from the Georgian Republic; a Persian family of six; a Vietnamese family of three; an Israeli couple and their 17-year-old son who had come to the U. S. to avoid the Israeli draft; a family of six from El Salvador; and a Palestinian from Egypt and his wife. Since none spoke English, the various families tried to get along by translating into various languages some had in common. Dickran would translate, for instance, the Georgian’s Russian into French for the Persian who would translate the French into Arabic so the Palestinian could speak — in a fashion — to the Georgian.

The ASJRA had acted for the tenants and hired a teacher to meet with them three times a week in the patio of the apartment building to teach English as a second language. Although there was a large Armenian and Russian-speaking community in this part of Los Angeles, Levonyan knew it was important that he and his family learn English. He wanted to be successful in America. He wanted his children to grow up to be Americans. Dickran ordered, cajoled, screamed and even pulled off his belt and whipped the children into attending every English as a Second Language (ESL) class given.

Within a few weeks the children could converse easily in heavily-accented English and Dickran and Anahid could make themselves understood in a rudimentary fashion. Dickran studied, as best he could, the materials provided him and by the end of the second month in the United States his vocabulary exceeded 1,000 words.

He was fluent, for all necessary commercial interactions.

Mrs. Anahid Levonyan had more difficulty. She was cooking and cleaning and trying to help her large family survive on the small stipend provided by the ASJRA and the welfare payments they helped her obtain from the state of California. The accumulated wealth gathered over 20 years of crime in Soviet Armenia was traveling to the U. S. by ship from Odessa to Rome to Haifa to New York and then by train to California. Levonyan had declared, as a refugee, six containers, 15 meters by 3 meters by 4 meters full of household goods. Each container was filled with different categories of valuable items. U. S. Customs, because Dickran was shown on their records as a refugee, did not inspect the containers. U.S. Customs automatically accepted that they were the “household goods” Dickran had declared.

When the goods arrived in California Dickran immediately extracted a small metal box from container number 3. The containers remained in storage in a warehouse in East Los Angeles.  Dickran sat heavily in a kitchen chair, filled a water glass half full of orange juice and half full of Armenian Brandy, took a large gulp and then broke the seal on the box.

“This, Anahid my corpulent love (showing off his mastery of English vocabulary) is our ticket out of this noisy, poverty clouded residence.”

“Speak in Armenian!” Anahid snapped in that guttural language. “I didn’t understand half of what you said.”

“I said, you fat old donkey, that this box contains our means of living the good life, the American dream, as they call it here.”

“Did you capture a devil in that little box who must grant three wishes before he is released?”

“Better than that” Dickran replied, unlocking the box with a small key kept on a chain around his neck, and spilling out onto the kitchen table 200 diamonds of various sizes, colors and qualities. “I will select a few of these small stones, take them to the jewelry marketplace on Sixth and Hill Streets in downtown Los Angeles and convert them to American dollars. I expect to get enough money to buy us a fine house and still have enough money left over to purchase a small business.”

“My God!” Anahid exclaimed. “Are those real diamonds?”

“Of course.”

“Where did you get them?”

“Some I purchased with the money we obtained from the sale of our house. Others I have collected, like the Ikons and antiques, over the years when I traded in the illegal market in Yerevan.”

“But, they must be worth a fortune?”

“They are enough to ransom the Czar from the Bolsheviks.”

“How did they come to us?”

“Remember,” Dickran explained with patience and calm demeanor created by the alcohol content of the Brandy “when the K. G. B. arrested me six months ago.”

“I have never been so frightened in my life. But they let us go. You told me it was just an unfortunate mistake.”

“The only mistake I made was to let them catch me.”

“You mean you really were a profiteer like they charged.”

“I was not just a profiteer. I was the most successful of all entrepreneurs in all of Soviet Armenia. My organization included 200 men buying, selling and distributing everything any person could conceivably need for more than 20 years. How do you think we were able to buy a two-story stone house in the best neighborhood in Yerevan on 400 rubles a month?”

“You told me it was luck that the prior owner could not afford to keep it and the rent was small.”

“The rent was small because I was the owner.”

“I was so stupid. You should have let me help in the business rather than keep me in the dark.”

“Mama, it was impossible. I needed you to keep the house, feed and care for the children and above all to be silent about the business. You could only be kept silent by ignorance. Knowledge of the fact that the business existed would hurt you. If you knew, and inadvertently told a female friend, we would all be in a Gulag in Siberia now instead of beautiful, tropical and wealthy Los Angeles.”

“You are telling me now.”

“Why not? We are in America now. There is no K. G. B. There are no secret police. There is no N.K.V.D. We are safe. Americans consider anyone who can leave the Soviet Union with wealth to be heroic. If the Americans learned the truth, they would give me a medal and book me on every talk show on television.”

“How much do you think the diamonds will bring?” Anahid asked, getting into the spirit of new found wealth. “Will we be able to live like — what do the Americans call them — the Yuppies?”

“Better. Stop being frugal. I will take the bus downtown and return with money.”

Levonyan then selected from the box 16 diamonds ranging in size from one half carat to 2.8 carats. They were all Old Mine cut stones, having fewer facets than the modern Brilliant cut, but were all of excellent color and quality. He placed the 16 diamonds in a change purse and put it in his right-hand pants pocket. He then locked the metal box and placed it in the kitchen cupboard on the top shelf behind a can of Columbian coffee and a bag of pure cane sugar from Hawaii.

Dickran had a fitful bus ride east on Melrose Avenue to Hill street where he changed buses and went South to the wholesale jewelry district. He entered a building at 606 South Hill Street and searched through the directory until he saw a listing for F. Kalabanian Diamonds. He hoped Kalabanian was  a diamond dealer with whom he could negotiate in his native Armenian.

Levonyan stepped into the elevator and rode it up twelve floors to the offices of H. Kalabanian Diamonds. On arrival at the door he found it to be locked. Dickran could see that people were working inside so he knocked on the door.

A tinny voice came out of a small speaker by the door in English: “What do you want?”

“Baron Kalabanian” Dickran replied in Armenian, using the honorific. “I have recently arrived from Yerevan and need the assistance of a countryman in converting some diamonds to American cash.”

“What is your name?”

“Dickran Levonyan, a poor engineer from Yerevan who escaped the Soviet control with the assistance of kind Americans.”

Kalabanian, a fat man, just over five feet tall, came to the door. He looked Dickran over carefully through small black eyes overshadowed by bushy black eyebrows that joined over his bulbous nose to form a straight, thick, unbroken line from ear to ear. He seemed a diminutive, fat, Neanderthal in a brown business suit and green silk tie. Kalabanian saw, though the glass, a respectful, recent immigrant wearing only a pair of cheap cotton pants, Russian sports shoes with the soles pulling away from the lasts, and a T-shirt depicting Snow-White’s castle at Disneyland. Although Dickran appeared strong, he could not hide a gun and looked rather harmless. Kalabanian, making sure his surveillance camera first got an excellent video picture of Levonyan on tape, decided to take a chance. Kalabanian allowed Dickran to enter the shop.

“Welcome to my humble shop, Baron Levonyan.” Kalabanian greeted Dickran.

“What can you tell me of Yerevan, the place of my birth, that I have not seen for the last twenty years?”

“The Soviets are in total control. The Azerbaijanis stay away for fear of the Soviet Army. There is enough food and clothing available in the market but one needs hard currency. Many families are selling the family antiques and jewelry. It is not a safe place to make a living. Making a profit is a major crime that can cause the government to ship any person it catches to a Gulag in Siberia. Still, it is beautiful and Mt. Ararat still casts a holy shadow across the city.”

“Do you know any of the Kalabanian’s who work in the jewelry manufacturing trade in Yerevan?”

“I’m sorry, Baron Kalabanian, but I know none of your relatives. I know nothing, either, about the jewelry trade.”

“Then why have you come here to my shop which only caters to professional jewelers?”

“Because I did not know where to go with these.” Dickran reached into his pocket, pulled out the change-purse and spilled on the counter the 16 diamonds.

“I see.” Kalabanian said, raising the loupe (the jeweler’s magnifying glass ground so that there would be no distortion, even at the edges of the glass) and examined each diamond carefully and with the skill of a consummate professional. He placed each stone in an oil-filled jar to measure its specific gravity and establish they were, without doubt, diamonds. He placed each on a scale and weighed each stone. Kalabanian compared the color of each stone to a graduated set he had purchased from the Gemological Institute of America in Santa Monica. After a half hour, with Dickran waiting silent behind him, Kalabanian reported:

“The diamonds are old-mine cut. There is little market for that type of stone in the United States. However, they are big enough to be re-cut into Brilliant cut stones with only small loss of weight. Each ranges from “E” to “H” color and have few imperfections visible to the loupe. I would grade them between VVS-1 and VS, a fine grade for a diamond. The total weight of all of your stones is 11.4 carats. You are a fortunate man, Baron Levonyan, to own such precious stones.”

“Do you, Baron Kalabanian, have a need for such diamonds?”

“Since most Americans’ would not buy an old-mine cut diamond there are very few people in this market who would have an interest.”

Understanding a negotiating ploy when he heard it, Dickran gathered up the diamonds, replaced them in the pouch and started to leave.

“Why are you leaving?”

“You said you had no interest in my stones. I saw a Jewish diamond merchant listed on the directory, I was going to see him, since one of my own countrymen could not help me.”

“What I was trying to say to you was that you are fortunate, Baron Levonyan, that I have my own diamond cutter. Yes, I could use stones like these if the price is right.”

“I have been told that diamonds of this quality have a value in the wholesale market of $6,000 per carat. Is that a reasonable price?”

“No. Most of the stones are small and I will lose 20 to 30% in the cutting. I believe a more accurate price is $600 a carat for the entire package.”

“You insult me! I am shocked that one of my own countrymen would try to take advantage of a poor immigrant who has just escaped from the vicious Communists.”
For two hours and forty-five minutes the two men haggled over price in a spirited and professional manner just as their ancestors had haggled over the price of asses or rugs in the markets of Yerevan centuries before. They took several breaks to drink thick, sweet coffee and later, as the negotiations wore on and the men began to like each other, Armenian Brandy which they called “Cognac.” When they reached agreement, they felt they were brothers. Kalabanian put his arm around Dickran’s shoulder and lead him into his back room where he sat and wrote out a check for $25,080.

“You are a hard negotiator.” Kalabanian said as he handed the check to Levonyan.

“If you were not from Yerevan, the city of my birth, I would never give $2,200 a carat for these stones.”

“If you were not from Yerevan, and if you did not have my son’s first name, Hovsep Kalabanian, I would never have accepted less than $3,000 per carat.”

Both men laughed and agreed to do business together again. Dickran went immediately to the Jewelers First Bank on the first floor of the building and opened the first bank account he had ever had with the check given him by Kalabanian.
He returned home a hero with $2,000 cash, in $100 bills. The family walked to Cantor’s delicatessen, just a few blocks from their apartment, and ate an enormous meal without fear of ever needing money again.

Kalabanian would buy more of his diamonds and had promised to introduce

Levonyan to some friends who knew dealers in antiquities, icons and rugs. He began to plan the future of his family. Levonyan expected, with his new fortune, to be one of the leaders of the American Armenian community.

Anahid and the children would never again fear being dragged off to the Gulag because of his crimes. He would be a distinguished and honest businessman and forget about the K. G. B. He would use the skills they taught him to take advantage of the innocent Americans.

Dickran Levonyan had been reborn and he was ecstatic.

“What a wonderful country is this America!” He exclaimed to his family as they finished dessert. “Where else could a criminal, about to be sentenced to life in the Siberian wastes with his entire family, be transformed into a wealthy and respected American businessman. I just love this country!”

ZALMA-INS-CONSULT                      © 2017 – Barry Zalma

Barry Zalma, Esq., CFE, now limits his practice to service as an insurance consultant and expert witness specializing in insurance coverage, insurance claims handling, insurance bad faith and insurance fraud almost equally for insurers and policyholders. He also serves as an arbitrator or mediator for insurance related disputes. He practiced law in California for more than 44 years as an insurance coverage and claims handling lawyer and more than 49 years in the insurance business.

Mr. Zalma is the first recipient of theLEGEND-TROPHY-2 first annual Claims Magazine/ACE Legend Award.

Check in on Zalma’s Insurance 101 – a Videoblog – that allows your people to learn about insurance in three to four minute increments at http://www.zalma.com/videoblog

Look to National Underwriter Company for the new Zalma Insurance Claims Libraryat www.nationalunderwriter.com/ZalmaLibrary  The new books are Insurance Law, Mold Claims Coverage Guide, Construction Defects Coverage Guide and Insurance Claims: A Comprehensive Guide

The American Bar Association, Tort & Insurance Practice Section has published Mr. Zalma’s book “The Insurance Fraud Deskbook” available at  http://shop.americanbar.org/eBus/Store/ProductDetails.aspx?productId=214624, or 800-285-2221 which is presently available and “Diminution of Value Damages” available at http://shop.americanbar.org/eBus/Store/ProductDetails.aspx?productId=203226972

Mr. Zalma’s three new e-books  were recently added and are available at http://www.zalma.com/zalmabooks.html

Mr. Zalma’s reports can be found on Tumbler at https://www.tumblr.com/search/zalma,  on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/barry.zalma and you can follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/bzalma

Legal Disclaimer:

The author and publisher disclaim any liability, loss, or risk incurred as a consequence, directly or indirectly, of the use and application of any of the contents of this blog. The information provided is not a substitute for the advice of a competent insurance, legal, or other professional. The Information provided at this site should not be relied on as legal advice. Legal advice cannot be given without full consideration of all relevant information relating to an individual situation.

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