Insurance Frauds that Took A Disturbing Turn: Part II
We continue our look at the, often deadly, cost of insurance fraud with the stories of three would-be scammers whose lack of humanity led to innocent suffering.
Because Uncontrollable Fire Solves Everything, Apparently
Thu Hong Nguyen had a nice scheme going for herself. She went from town to town purchasing nail salons, businesses that required relatively low investment. Beginning in 2006, Nguyen purchased at least five salons throughout Texas and Kansas, and each one suffered a calamity within two years. Excluding the first salon, none of the businesses was in Nguyen’s name, she favored using her ex-husband’s at first, before switching to her son’s, and then a new boyfriend’s.
Her first salon, purchased for $15,000, was burglarized – two days after the insurance was drastically increased. She received a payout of $41,855. This whetted her appetite, and Nguyen turned to what became her favored method – arson. The second salon was purchased in her ex-husband’s name, but oddly enough, the insurance policy named her the beneficiary. She received $62,344 for that one.
Nguyen continued her scam, with varying degrees of success, until 2015 when her fifth salon went up in flames. It was the second fire the salon had suffered that year, and the first one had netted Nguyen $40,000 after fire fighters stopped the blaze. This time, however, she wanted something a little more permanent and a lot more lucrative.
When the business closed one evening, poured a few gallons of acetone and isopropyl alcohol into the stock room, set it on fire, and left, thinking that should take care of it. As for the people who lived in the sixteen apartments above the salon, well, who cares?
The Kansas City firefighters, that’s who, and although they rescued everyone, two of their own died and two others suffered serious injuries. Investigators took a good look at Nguyen after the fire, discovering a string of questionable insurance claims unrelated to the salons. This included one where her brother’s house caught fire while she was staying there for a few months. Unbeknownst to her brother, Nguyen had added herself to his homeowner policy, and later named herself head-of-household.
Nguyen got 74 years.
Halfway Home Slumlord Forced Addicts Back into Drugs
Yury Baumblit owned apartments in Brooklyn, New York, and used them as “three quarter houses” for about five years. According to the New York Times, the so-called “three-quarter houses” were unregulated residences that fell into a gray area between regulated halfway houses and permanent homes. Supposedly, these homes catered to people struggling with addiction and mental illness as well as those too poor to live in the city.
In theory, Baumblit’s apartments were havens – a place of safety for some of humanity’s most vulnerable. The reality, however, was a nightmarish scenario where Baumblit forced people into, or back to, addiction, and those who refused ended up back on the street.
Baumblit’s three-quarter houses were supposedly a safe place from illegal substances, but drug abuse flourished throughout the mold covered, vermin infested, apartments. Many of them were single family homes. That didn’t deter Baumblit from cramming dozens of people in them; he stacked bunkbeds from floor to ceiling, and every single person was given a choice: enroll in substance abuse programs or be evicted.
Several shady rehab organizations had an agreement with Baumblit, for every person he sent their way, he’d receive a portion of the Medicaid payout. Over the course of five years, this amounted to at least $1.5 million.
Sadly, Baumblit’s punishment doesn’t seem to fit the crime. Likely, the law never envisioned such a scumbag scenario. Baumblit was forced to sell his assets and sentenced to 2.5 to 5 years in state prison.
When Arson Just Won’t Do the Job
Pascal Blasio had a problem. His business, Homes in Style, located at New Ferry, UK, was about to go under. Unlike Thu Hong Nguyen, he wasn’t an arsonist, but they both share a unique trait: they’re miserable excuses for human beings. Given their shared lack of humanity, it’s not terribly surprising they shared two other qualities. Both decided insurance fraud was the way to go, and innocent people paid the price.
On March 25, 2017, when Blasio was a week or two away from insolvency, his beloved store was the center of a blast that devastated the surrounding area. Arson, apparently, was too simple for Blasio. He elected to remove a cap from a live gas pipe, tamper with the emergency control valve, and call it a day.
Interestingly, Blasio did not rig a detonation device. Either he didn’t know how, or he figured something would ignite the fuel sooner or later. In this case, the answer was most definitely later.
Gas spilled into his shop for somewhere between three and four hours before an “unidentified ignition source,” most likely an electrical appliance, put an end to Homes in Style in a way that Nguyen could only dream about.
At 9:15pm, the gas ignited, causing “almost apocalyptic” damage to sixty-three properties. Homes in Style, unsurprisingly, ceased to exist. A nearby Chinese restaurant suffered a similar fate, and the windows of pubs and houses were blown in as the blast expanded.
Prosecutors later claimed that it was sheer luck that prevented a massive death toll. Had the explosion occurred an hour earlier, or on any other night, the blast would have turned the area into a holocaust. Kim Ashwin, co-owner of a dance studio that, formerly, sat above the shop, said they typically had about 100 children and their families inside at that time of night. Due to a recent scheduling change, this was a one-off evening where they held their classes earlier in the day.
Surprisingly, no one died in the explosion, but that’s not to say innocent people went unscathed. Eighty-one people sustained injuries including lacerations, burns, broken bones, and psychological trauma. Among the injured was twenty-one-year-old Lewis Jones, who suffered a serious brain injury and was “left clinging to life”.
None of this prevented Blasio from filing his insurance claim, of course. £51,000 was what he’d wanted, and if the blast damaged or hurt others, well, that wasn’t his problem. The judge described the blast as “colossal,” saying the explosion “annihilated” Homes in Style as well as the dance studio and pointed out how Blasio had reduced an entire block of buildings “to rubble.”
Blasio was sentenced to 20 years, for the explosion, and a concurrent sentence of eight years for fraud.
Blasio, of course, denies causing the blast or committing fraud.