A California couple was so dependent on the housing market that, facing economic ruin after they lost virtually all of their property wealth when the economy tanked, they allegedly burned down their own home for insurance money.
Police in Tracy, California arrested 31-year-old William “Billy” Tipton Jr. and issued an arrest warrant for his wife, 37-year-old Frayba Tipton. They are suspected of arson, forgery and insurance fraud. Billy Tipton faces additional charges of grand theft and two more counts of defrauding an insurance company, according to a local news report.
The couple were real estate agents and mortgage brokers. Billy Tipton used to own a branch of West Coast Realty and Mortgage in Tracy, although he apparently lacked a real estate or broker’s licence. His wife owned A+ Realty and Mortgage.
“They let several properties lapse into foreclosure as their income as real estate agents and brokers suffered from a dearth of buyers. Lawsuits demanding payment from Frayba and Billy Tipton show that the couple has had trouble keeping up with the bills for the past year or so,” the Tracy Press reports.
The Tiptons, who lost their upscale home to a suspected arson fire in July 2008, told the Press the day after that they had taken their five children to Lake Tahoe for a Fourth of July vacation and that the loss of their home devastated them.
Not only did the fire destroy many of the family’s possessions, it also nearly killed several firefighters when it weakened the beams supporting a heavy slate roof that collapsed just 30 seconds after a fire chief ordered his crew out of the burning house.
Investigators immediately suspected arson, said Germane Friends, the Tracy Fire Department Division Chief who pulled his crew out of the Fagin Drive fire with seconds to spare.
“It was obvious at the time that it was an incendiary fire because it was started in so many different places,” he said today. “I know they started investigating that immediately.”
It’s a stark reminder of how desperate the declining real estate market has made some people. (via Patrick.Net.)