STOCKTON (CBS13) — Three defendants pled guilty to insurance fraud and arson charges on Monday in San Joaquin County.
The San Joaquin County District Attorney’s Office said Tyler Chen, 49, his wife, Kim Chen, 47, and friend, Ha Nguyen, 64, were sentenced in an insurance fraud scheme and ordered to pay $582,506.36 in restitution.
Mr. Chen was sentenced to 13 years in state prison for multiple counts of arson and insurance fraud. Nguyen was sentenced to eight years in prison on similar charges, and Mrs. Chen was sentenced to one year in the county jail for a count of insurance fraud.
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In an investigation into insurance claims involving Nguyen and Mr. Chen, the California Department of Insurance investigators found a pattern of claims involving house fires due to leaving chicken unattended on the stove. The pair was also linked to claims related to water damages at warehouses after fires.
Court records show more than $4 million in insurance claims were paid out for properties in San Joaquin, Santa Clara and Fresno Counties.
According to court records, Nguyen met with Public Adjuster Tony Astone in October 2013 about an insurance claim at a warehouse. During the meeting, Nguyen gave Astone a ledger with addresses and dates of properties purposely set on fire for insurance claims. Astone said he had helped Nguyen and Mr. Chen with the claims on the ledger.
Three months later, the Stockton Fire Department received a tip about a string of fires between Dec. 2011 and Sept. 2013 as well as the exact address of the alleged next house fire. In June 2014, the department responded to a house fire caused by a frying chicken that was left unattended on the 5100 block of Pier Drive.