A warrant has been issued for a Richmond man indicted Thursday on 113 counts of insurance fraud in a scheme that involved destroying personal property, seeking payment for property that didn't exist and inflating the value of insurance claims, authorities said.
The indictments, returned by a Contra Costa County grand jury and announced by District Attorney Mark Peterson, stem from more than 65 insurance claims submitted by Louis Houston, 49, between 2000 and 2011, Peterson said.
Five other people also were indicted in the case, which also involves perjury and arson, Peterson said. Those five -- identified as Cedric Jackson, of Fresno, Jones Smith, of Richmond, Crystal Robinson and Kimberly Burdeen-Tanner, both of Pittsburg and Sadi Ziegler, of Vallejo -- have been arrested, but Houston remains at large, Peterson said.
Prosecutors said that Houston claimed property losses from at least 10 separate fires, 20 incidents of theft or vandalism, eight auto collisions and six incidents of water damage during the 11-year period. He's accused of requesting a replacement or reimbursement for the same items several times by using the same receipts more than once or by submitting receipts for property that was purchased and returned, Peterson said.
The grand jury also ruled that enough probable cause existed to believe that Houston set fire to residences he was renting on two separate occasions. Those fires were set so Houston could profit from the insurance payouts, Peterson said.
Search warrants used in July 2012 at Houston's home and storage unit, both in Richmond, uncovered items that previously were reported stolen or destroyed, Peterson said. A search of Jackson' Fresno home revealed similar items, Peterson said. The search warrants were issued after a yearlong investigation by the state's Department of Insurance and other agencies.
"Honest consumers and businesses end up paying the price" for such fraud, Peterson said in a statement. "The cost of that fraud is passed on the community through higher insurance premiums, longer response times for legitimate claims and ultimately the increased costs of goods and services."
A 2008 report by California's Department of Insurance indicated that insurance fraud costs Californians more than $500 per resident per year.
Contact Rick Hurd at 925-945-4789 and follow him at Twitter.com/3rdERH.