KAUFMAN COUNTY, Texas — A Kaufman County man plotted with a friend to cash in on a $60,000 insurance policy on a boat, the Texas Parks and Wildlife announced yesterday.
Both men, who were not identified by Game Wardens, were indicted in early 2019 on second-degree felony arson charges and recently pleaded guilty in the case — receiving 10 years deferred adjudication and a $2,500 fine.
Texas Parks and Wildlife Game Wardens were called to a boat fire near a rural road, away from any lakes, in Palo Pinto County in December 2017. Wardens used the hull's identification number to track ownership of the boat to a Kaufman County man.
"The warden contacted to boat owner to confirm the boat was theirs but was met with hostility," read the release.
The next day, the Game Warden contacted the man's insurance company which had flagged the claim as suspicious.
"In the early stages of the investigation, firefighters and a Palo Pinto County investigator believed the fire was intentionally set with the aid of an accelerant," stated the release.
Game Wardens reviewed surveillance video from several gas stations along Interstate Highway 20 and observed an SUV pulling a bass boat approximately 20 minutes prior to the boat fire being reported. Using this video, and after multiple interviews and collaborations with the insurance company's Fraud Investigative Unit, investigators identified a possible suspect.
The Wise County Game Warden who was called to the initial boat fire, now accompanied with a Game Warden captain, drove by the alleged suspect's home in an unmarked vehicle — confirming the SUV was there and it was the same SUV seen in surveillance video towing the boat.
Upon contact and interviews, the man admitted to setting the boat on fire to help his friend collect insurance money. He was to be paid $5,000 if he made it look like the boat was stolen and set on fire, according to Game Wardens.
The boat owner denied any involvement in interviews with the Fraud Investigative Unit.
After meeting with Game Wardens in January 2019, the Kaufman County man admitted to his part in the scheme and gave a full confession, according to Texas Parks and Wildlife.
"The owner had purchased the boat for $38,500 and had it insured for $60,000," stated the agency.