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Arson For Profit, A Book Review
By Barry Zalma, Esq. CFE - July 7, 2010

Have you ever wondered why people burn down their homes? Did they intend to defraud their insurer to profit from an unsalable house? Were they about to be foreclosed? Did they catch a spouse in bed with another? Were they crazy?

Arson, much to the surprise of the average person, is not generally committed to defraud an insurer. Rather, most arson fires are set for spite or by vandals. Arson for profit is the smallest percentage of all arson fires.

When Willie Sutton was asked why he robbed banks, he was said to have answered, “That’s where the money is.” Today, insurance fraud and arson for profit are committed because that’s where the money is; and no one seems to care if an insurance company is defrauded.

Insurance companies are not liked. Some people even believe an insurance company cannot be a victim of a crime because, they believe, insurers are always victimizers. The public does not know, or believe, the truth is that insurance pays approximately 98% of all claims made to the satisfaction of the person insured. Insurers, because they have serious assets, are often the victims of fraud to the point that most of the states of the United States require – on penalty of fines or loss of license – to engage special investigators to defeat attempts at fraud.

Arson for profit is the most despicable type of insurance fraud because it puts in danger the lives of firefighters, neighbors, and the person attempting the arson. The motive is usually greed, an inability to pay debts, or an attempt to obtain a profit from an insurance policy. Sometimes the reason for an arson for profit is unexpected and unusual. The motive in Arson for Profit was to support a terrorist organization seeking retribution for a century old crime against humanity.

The book begins with an explosion, with the power of 78 sticks of dynamite, when a match was thrown in the front door. A flash of force and fire threw the arsonist back from the door 15 feet and burned the eyebrows off his face. In pain he ran down the hill in Sherman Oaks, California, to his car and sped away without lights until he reached Ventura Boulevard.

The arsonist was not a typical criminal. He had just graduated from Encino High School. He had earned money to buy a car working at his father’s gas station. He was, however, an obedient son and trained with a terror organization to properly destroy the house at the direction of his father.

Arson for Profit shows how, what the US Government describes as Russian Organized Crime, became involved in an attempt to defraud an insurer by means of an arson for profit and how the attempt failed because the insurer refused to be a victim. It explains the methods used by insurers to properly investigate a suspicious claim, the effectiveness of a professional private investigator working in concert with an experienced and knowledgeable lawyer. Arson for Profit provides incentives to insurers to refuse to honor fraud and how it can profit from spending whatever is required to defeat an attempt at fraud.

The book explains how, after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the collapse of the Soviet Union, there emerged a new threat to the national security of the United States and the world community. Criminal cells/networks containing émigrés from the former Soviet Union operating in the United States have been identified by many different terms, "Russian Mafia," "Russian Organized Crime," "Organizatsiya , " "Malina," "Mafiya," "Odessa Mafia," and "Soviet Criminal Network."

The book explains how an insurer’s refusal to pay a fraud took the profit out of an attempted arson for profit. The insurer, rather than being intimidated by suits alleging bad faith, despicable conduct, and demands of compensatory and punitive damages, fought back and recovered damages from the arsonist. By refusing to be cowed by the threats, refusing to pay the claim and by defending the action through trial and appeal, the arsonist found himself paying the insurer for its costs and attorneys fees spent defending the action brought by the arsonist.

Crime does not always pay.

Insurers and claims people will understand, after reading “Arson for Profit” that if they are willing to fight, refuse to pay, and are not afraid of trial, they will find profit from the fight and the deterrent effect of the news on the street will be that it is not profitable to attempt to defraud that insurer.

Published as an e-book it is available for only $5.00 at

Details available from the author at

Barry Zalma is a lawyer, Certified Fraud Examiner, and an expert defense witness against insurance fraud.  Phone 310-390-4455, Fax:  310-391-5614, email


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