A fire burns on the Everett waterfront Oct. 8, 2018. (Sue Misao / Herald file)

A fire burns on the Everett waterfront Oct. 8, 2018. (Sue Misao / Herald file)

Everett boater gets house arrest for fraud in marina fire

He lost his boat in a 2018 fire. But valuables he claimed were destroyed weren’t burned. He sold them on OfferUp.

EVERETT — Lost in the fire were two motorcycle helmets, two outboard motors, three life preservers, three pistols, scuba gear, a rain suit, remote controlled cars, an electric bike, a $4,000 GPS device, a 36-inch TV, a dinghy, ceramics from “Porchigal” and much more.

Or at least that’s what the boat owner, 61, told his insurance company.

The fire at the Everett marina scorched the man’s 36-foot fiberglass pleasure craft, M/V Discovery, as well as five boathouses on Oct. 8, 2018.

Aside from toilet paper, women’s clothing and the $40,000 vessel itself, investigators determined the flames consumed almost no possessions aboard the boat. Some of the man’s “burned” valuables had been pawned or sold on OfferUp — before the fire, according to charging papers.

The Everett man pleaded guilty this week to a felony for the fraud. Superior Court Judge Paul Thompson sentenced him to two months under house arrest, as suggested by a plea deal.

City authorities never determined the official origin of the fire.

Early on, police received a tip that the man may have set it on purpose for insurance reasons. Ongoing civil claims filed in U.S. District Court allege it was actually caused by negligence.

A man who owned a boat at a neighboring slip worked in the HVAC industry. He claimed the Discovery owner had a diesel furnace mounted to the boat, and it often spewed smelly black smoke for months.

Everett firefighters step onto what is left of a boat that burned in a fire at the Port of Everett Marina on Oct. 8, 2018 in Everett. (Olivia Vanni / Herald file)

Everett firefighters step onto what is left of a boat that burned in a fire at the Port of Everett Marina on Oct. 8, 2018 in Everett. (Olivia Vanni / Herald file)

In neighborly conversations, he “acknowledged the problem and often replied that he would address the maintenance and repair issues but I observed no maintenance or repairs took place,” wrote the neighbor in a sworn declaration filed earlier this year at the federal court in Seattle.

Three other boat owners are now seeking $46,000 in damages for property that was destroyed as the flames spread.

About a week after the fire, the owner of the Discovery submitted his own claim to a Geico-owned marine insurer saying 31 items burned, for a total property loss of $17,625.

The suspicious claims were passed along to Everett police detective Danny Rabelos. The owner met with the detective in December 2018, and the man quickly “corrected” the list to subtract $2,500 in valuables that he claimed were listed in error, the charges say.

Rabelos consulted with a fire investigator, and learned some of the remaining items — such as a .45-caliber Colt Peacemaker, a .45-caliber Springfield pistol, a 9 mm Smith & Wesson, and the RadMini electric bike — hadn’t been damaged, because there was no evidence they had ever been on the boat. There wasn’t much on board at all, according to the investigator.

Prosecutors charged the man in September with one count of insurance fraud. He pleaded guilty Tuesday to making a false claim of proof in excess of $1,500. He addressed the judge in Snohomish County Superior Court.

“Basically, I made a mistake when I filled out the list, thinking — I was just kind of in shock at the time,” he said.

His attorney, Phil Weinberg, said none of the insurance money ever got paid out to his client.

“In the process of doing this stupid thing, my client was not compensated for the fire in which he lost a $40,000 boat, and his home,” Weinberg said. “He’s very sorry about it.”

The defendant had no criminal record. He preemptively filed a request in federal court in April 2019, seeking to be freed of civil liability for the damage, on the grounds that the fire was not caused by “any fault or negligence on the part of the Plaintiff.”

In October, two neighboring boat owners’ motion for summary judgment — which would have resolved their civil claims with no trial — was denied by District Court Judge James Robart.

So the federal case is still pending.

Caleb Hutton: 425-339-3454; chutton@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @snocaleb.

Talk to us

More in Local News

Carol Rochnowski, of Lake Stevens, enjoyed a socially distanced dinner with her neighbors, Andy and April Taylor, before the weather changed their weekly meals. The neighbors, along with Rochnowski's housemate Bernie Terry, have supported 24 restaurants during the pandemic. (Courtesy Carol Rochnowski)
With weekly take-out, neighbors feeding their friendships

These Lake Stevens families have made it a point to order takeout from an array of restaurants weathering the pandemic.

NO CAPTION NECESSARY: Logo for the Cornfield Report by Jerry Cornfield. 20200112
$2.2B COVID conversation begins; a road feud may be easing

Here’s what’s happening on Day 15 of the 2021 session of the Washington Legislature.

Jacob D. Little
Man accused of taking police gun in riot faces murder charge

Police charged Jacob D. Little, 25, of Everett, with second-degree murder and second-degree assault.

Lynnwood bookkeeper embezzles $230K from security company

Sheryl Rucker pleaded guilty to stealing from her employer, Absco Solutions. She must pay back the money.

A pharmacist prepares a syringe of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine Friday, Jan. 8, 2021, at Queen Anne Healthcare, a skilled nursing and rehabilitation facility in Seattle. Pfizer has committed to supply up to 40 million doses of its COVID-19 vaccine this year to a World Health Organization-backed effort to get affordable vaccines to 92 poor and middle-income countries. The deal announced Friday, Jan. 22 will supply the shots to the program known as COVAX.   (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Short on doses, county’s drive-thru vaccinations are on pause

Appointments won’t be accepted again until new shipments arrive — next week at the soonest.

More contagious strain of COVID-19 found in Snohomish County

Two residents tested positive, and are the first cases that have been identified in the state.

A little snow could be on its way to the lowlands this week

Two separate systems could bring less than one inch of accumulation to Puget Sound residents.

Dustyn Hunt-Bagby. (Justice for Dustyn Coalition)
2 years later, father charged in death of daughter’s friend

He admits he pulled the trigger. But Charles Heller claims self-defense in fatal shooting of Dustyn Hunt-Bagby.

Man stabbed Sunday in Lynnwood supermarket parking lot dies

The victim was in his early 60s. Detectives are looking for help to identify suspects.

Most Read