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Family arson ring roasted for $4 million insurance fraud case

News: 2018 Press Release

For Release: May 30, 2018
Media Calls Only: 916-492-3566
Email Inquiries: cdipress@insurance.ca.gov
Family arson ring roasted for $4 million insurance fraud case
Ringleaders arraigned yesterday facing over 30 felony counts of fraud and arson

SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Tyler Chen, 46, and his wife, Kim, 45, were arraigned in court yesterday in the Santa Clara County Superior Court following their arrest on multiple felony counts of insurance fraud and arson for their role in allegedly setting fires in a fraud scheme scamming five insurance companies out of $4 million. Four co-conspirators were also arrested and charged in the alleged fraud scheme.

"The complicated scheme these suspects allegedly devised to defraud insurers is deplorable," said Commissioner Jones. "Excellent investigative work by our detectives and insurance investigators led to unraveling this crime. We are committed to working with our law enforcement partners to bring justice to those who defraud Californians."

In January 2014, the department received a tip through its consumer hotline about a connection in a string of home, business and warehouse fires that occurred between December 2011 to September 2013. The tipster gave the exact address of where the next house fire would occur. The department launched a joint investigation with the San Jose Fire Department and the Santa Clara and San Joaquin County District Attorney's offices, which revealed two fires occurred at a business owned by the Chens and shortly after, their homes in San Jose and Stockton met a similar fate.

The residential fires were all reported to have started when chicken being fried was left unattended on the stove. The Chens allegedly orchestrated the entire situation to make it appear as though the fire was the result of a careless cooking incident and then planted many of the same smoke damaged items, which they had already claimed from other alleged fires in homes, warehouses and businesses.

Tyler Chen and his business associate, Ha Nguyen, 63, of Stockton, rented a number of warehouses for an import and export business they owned. According to investigators, the business partners used smoke-damaged belongings to also claim damage from fires in their warehouse or neighboring units. The investigation also found that goods claimed to be damaged in the fire had been purchased, but had not yet been received, which led detectives to arrest Nguyen for his role in the fraud scheme.

The Chens recruited a family member, a co-worker, and another local business owner to take part in the scheme even using the same smoke-damaged goods identified in the other fires. The damages claimed in all of the fires total $5,653,665 and $4,009,008 was paid out by five victim insurance companies. These co-conspirators, Trang Huynh, 34, of Stockton, Suong (Sandy) Ngo, 49, of Santa Clara, and Duyen Pham, 49, of San Jose, were arrested as well for their involvement.

The Santa Clara and San Joaquin County District Attorney's offices are prosecuting this case. The Chens, Trang Huynh, Suong (Sandy) Ngo, and Duyen Pham are scheduled to return to court on July 23, 2018. Ha Nguyen will be arraigned June 5, 2018.  

# # #

Media Notes:

NameSanta Clara CountySan Joaquin County
Tyler Chen

2x PC 451(b) Arson, inhabited
3x PC 451(c) Arson, structure
3x PC 550(a)(1)-Ins. Fraud
5x PC 550(a)(1)-Ins. Fraud
1x PC 548 - Destruction of Ins. Property (non-arson)

3x PC 451(b) Arson, inhabited
3x PC 550(a)(1)-Ins. Fraud
Kim Chen1x PC 451(b) Arson, inhabited
1x PC 451(c) Arson, structure
2x PC 550(b)(1)-Ins. Fraud
2x PC 550(a)(1)-Ins. Fraud
3x PC 451(b) Arson, inhabited
3x PC 550(a)(1)-Ins. Fraud
Ha Nguyen2x PC 451(b) Arson, inhabited
2x PC 451(c) Arson, structure
3x PC 550(b)(1)-Ins. Fraud
6x PC 550(a)(1)-Ins. Fraud
1x PC 548 - Destruction of Ins. Property (non-arson)

3x PC 451(b) Arson, inhabited
3x PC 550(a)(1)-Ins. Fraud

Sandy Ngo2x PC 451(c) Arson, structure
1x PC 550(b)(1)-Ins. Fraud
3x PC 550(a)(1)-Ins. Fraud
-
Duyen Pham1x PC 451(b) Arson, inhabited
1x PC 550(a)(1)-Ins. Fraud
-
Trang Huynh-1x PC 550(a)(1)-Ins. Fraud


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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