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CA Department of Insurance

Husband pleads guilty to insurance fraud after wife sets home on fire

News: 2014 Press Release

For Release: June 25, 2014
Media Calls Only: 916-492-3566
Email Inquiries: cdipress@insurance.ca.gov
Husband pleads guilty to insurance fraud after wife sets home on fire

SAN JOSE, Calif. - Edward Russell, 59, pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor count of insurance fraud earlier this month after intentionally withholding information from his insurer regarding a fire that destroyed his home. Russell was sentenced to 120 hours of volunteer work program, ordered to pay more than $89,000 in restitution to Universal North Insurance Company and placed on two years probation when he failed to inform his insurer that his wife had deliberately set fire to their home in order to collect the full insurance benefits.

"No matter what form insurance fraud takes, it harms insurers, consumers and California's economy," said Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones. "In this case, had the homeowner been honest with his insurer he would have still received half the benefit of his claim. Unfortunately his choice to deceive his insurer and his subsequent conviction resulted in him paying a much higher price."

Russell was arrested in September of 2013 following an investigation by the California Department of Insurance after he filed an insurance claim when his home burned down. His wife, Christie Russell, was caught on video surveillance footage setting fire to the home after a family argument. She was later convicted of arson. Russell failed to report to his insurer that his wife was responsible for starting the fire in their residence. As a result of the deception, Russell received the full benefits under his homeowner policy totaling more than $178,600. Had Russell disclosed his wife's involvement, he would have received half of the benefits per the terms of his policy.

This case was prosecuted by the Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office.

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Media Notes:

  • Booking photo available
  • Edward Russell was convicted of one count of PC 550 (b)(2)
  • Russell was ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $89,304.10
  • The total amount Russell received from his claim was $178,608.19
  • Edward Russell was initially arrested on September 9, 2013
  • The fire at the Russell residence occurred on March 3, 2011


The California Department of Insurance, established in 1868, is the largest consumer protection agency in California. Insurers collect $310 billion in premiums annually in California. Since 2011 the California Department of Insurance received more than 1,000,000 calls from consumers and helped recover over $469 million in claims and premiums. Please visit the Department of Insurance website at www.insurance.ca.gov. Non-media inquiries should be directed to the Consumer Hotline at 800.927.4357. Telecommunications Devices for the Deaf (TDD), please dial 800.482.4833.

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