The Burning Bed

True Crime of Insurance Fraud Number 34

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Barry Zalma, Esq., CFE presents videos so you can learn how insurance fraud is perpetrated and what is necessary to deter or defeat insurance fraud. This Video Blog of True Crime Stories of Insurance Fraud with the names and places changed to protect the guilty are all based upon investigations conducted by me and fictionalized to create a learning environment for claims personnel, SIU investigators, insurers, police, and lawyers better understand insurance fraud and weapons that can be used to deter or defeat a fraudulent insurance claim

When “Obvious Fraud” is Wrong

Sometimes, what looks like an obvious arson for profit turns out to be an accidental fire. The insured lived near the ocean within the city limits of San Luis Obispo. Recently divorced she lived alone for many months. The divorce had caused her much emotional trauma. After twenty-five years of marriage, her husband announced he could not live with her anymore and moved out.

She sought treatment for her depression. She visited with multiple psychiatrists and psychologists, who only made her life more miserable.

Shortly before the divorce became final, walking aimlessly through an older part of town, she happened upon an occult bookstore. She bought a book on the power of the mind. The good book gave her a life purpose. She began to apply the principles stated in the book and found peace for the first time since her divorce. She became a regular customer of the book store. A friendship grew between her and the owner, who introduced her to others in San Luis Obispo interested in the occult and powers of the mind.

When the divorce was final and she gained absolute title to the land and house the book store owner moved into the house with her. As they, and their friends, concentrated their psychic energies, they became convinced that a major earthquake would strike California and destroy all who lived in San Luis Obispo.

The investigation by the fire department revealed that the fire was suspicious. No specific cause could be found for the fire. It did burn very hot. There were marks on the floor in the second bedroom that seemed to show a flammable liquid was spread. The insurer was concerned. It demanded the examinations under oath of the insured and her book store owner lover. Both testified clearly, concisely and honestly that they had no idea why the fire occurred.

Both testified, with vigor, concerning their belief in their psychic powers. Both denied adamantly any knowledge of the cause of the fire and explained why they sold the house because of what they believed was the oncoming major earthquake.  They explained that they had purchased a house near Nashville because of the low taxes and the stable land below all of Tennessee.

The investigator advised the insurer that, after examining the bed and after reviewing the testimony of the insured and her lover at the examination under oath, it was his conclusion that the fire was the result of a short circuit in the bed motor which ignited the highly flammable (and now banned) polyurethane foam mattress. He explained that polyurethane foam, when heat is applied to it, liquefies and burns vigorously. The liquefied polyurethane foam flows on floor surfaces and leaves a trail similar to that left by the spreading of a flammable petrochemical accelerant.

The mystery solved; the insurer paid the insured the loss she incurred to her personal property. The two insurers split the cost of rebuilding the structure. The insured and her lover used the proceeds of the sale of the house and the insurance claim to move to the house they had found in Tennessee.

They now live in a large home on ten acres of land where they have gathered with them other believers in the occult and the power of the mind.  Since both the insured and her lover were ministers of the Universal Life Church, they performed their own wedding and are living content, spreading the word of the power of the mind. Their wedding ceremony was interrupted by an earthquake from the New Madrid fault registering 3.2 on the Richter scale. Since they were Californian’s the two slept through, and never felt, the minor earthquake.

© 2022 – Barry Zalma

Barry Zalma, Esq., CFE, now limits his practice to service as an insurance consultant specializing in insurance coverage, insurance claims handling, insurance bad faith and insurance fraud almost equally for insurers and policyholders.

He practiced law in California for more than 44 years as an insurance coverage and claims handling lawyer and more than 54 years in the insurance business.

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