A local business owner facing a 2008 arson charge pleaded guilty March 19 to mail fraud and falsification of records.
According to an indictment filed in U.S. District Court last June, Jeanne Sanborn set fire to her business, The Complete Skin Care Center at 3602 Old Shell Road, on Dec. 21, 2008, causing damage to the building and personal property inside.
In a plea agreement filed last week, Sanborn admitted to executing a scheme to defraud and obtain money by means of false and fraudulent pretenses from State Farm Insurance by making a false claim under her insurance policy for the fire that occurred at her business.
According to court documents, State Farm paid out approximately $490,495.27 as a result of the fraudulent claim.
In pleading guilty, Sanborn further admitted she “maliciously started the fire at her business through her own actions whereby [she] started the fire in a trash can in her business. In starting the fire [Sanborn] acted intentionally or with willful disregard of the fact that a fire would occur through her actions.”
The plea agreement said Sanborn also knowingly concealed and made a false entry in a document to obstruct the investigation of a bankruptcy case by stating she only had an “interest” in the Complete Skin Care Center, when she had financial interests in investment securities and an inherited retirement account. She also denied income sources other than employment or the operation of her business from 2012 to July 15, 2014, when she had income of some $52,242 from an IRA distribution in 2012.
According to a news release, the case was investigated by agents from the Mobile Office of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the Mobile Fire Department.
“This prosecution shows that the Department of Justice understands its duty to work to ensure that Mobile firefighters and residents are not endangered by those who start fires to commit insurance fraud and that bankruptcy relief is allowed only to those who are honest and candid with the court and creditors, and not to those who would scam the system,” U.S. Attorney Kenyen Brown said in the release.
“This indictment shows ATF, Mobile Fire Department and the U.S. Attorney’s Office realize that starting a fire to commit insurance fraud is a crime of violence that places innocent people’s lives and property in harm’s way, and demonstrates their collaborative efforts to fight the crime of arson. ATF’s frontline strategy utilizes every available resource to make our communities a safer place to live,” ATF Special Agent In Charge Glenn Anderson said in a statement.
The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys George May, Michael Anderson and Charles Baer on behalf of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Alabama.
The maximum penalty for the charges is 20 years imprisonment, a fine up to $250,000 and a three-year supervised release, which would follow any term of imprisonment. Restitution may be ordered by the court.
The plea agreement says prosecutors will not bring any additional charges against Sanborn as it relates to the federal indictment and will recommend Sanborn be sentenced at the low end of the sentencing guidelines as determined by the court.
A sentencing date has been set for July 20.