MI landlord Charged with Arson and Insurance and Tax Fraud2, Insurance Fraud — By Trace America on September 12, 2011 at 3:53 PM
One Michigan landlord is in a lot of trouble with the feds over arson. If you ask him though, he tells a very different story, stating that the claims against him are laughable.
According to The Muskegon Chronicle, Gerald Singer, who is charged with setting fires to several of his rental properties over the past 18 years and bilking insurance companies out of thousands, says the federal case against him is “a joke.”
“I laugh about the whole thing,” said 72-year-old Singer on September 9th.
“I’m 100 percent sure this (case) is going to fall apart,” he said. “I’m not really worried. Why would I be worried if I haven’t done anything?”
Singer has purchased, fixed up and rented over 300 “fixer-uppers” in the Muskegon, Muskegon Heights, Grand Haven and Norton Shores area over the past 45 years.
In the federal indictment against him, the U.S. Department of Justice claims that he conducted an 18-year “arson for profit scheme.”
According to a press release from the U.S. Attorney Donald A. Davis of the Western District of Michigan, Singer is being charged with causing nine different fires over 18 years, for “the purpose of defrauding insurance companies out of over $700,000 in false insurance claims.”
“This office will vigorously investigate and prosecute allegations of arson based on insurance and tax fraud, both of which significantly impact all law-abiding citizens,” Davis stated in the press release.
“Not only do these crimes damage the economic fabric of our community, but also expose fire fighters and residents to extreme dangers of an arson fire. It cannot and will not be tolerated.”
Federal agents arrested Singer on September 8th at his house, but he later posted bond and was released.
When asked if he’s responsible for any of the nine fires, which were deemed arsons by the authorities, Singer replied: “Absolutely not.”
“The whole thing is a joke,” he said, acknowledging that he knew authorities were suspicious of him for years.
“They were supposed to arrest me in December of last year, and then it changed to January, and then it was supposed to be February, March, then April.”
A couple of months ago however, there was a knock on his door, and he said “I heard the doorbell and then a loud knock on the door and I thought, ‘Well, it must be the feds.’”
After that, Singer noted how authorities “emptied out” his office and wouldn’t release any of his documents.” He says, “They left me with paper clips and scotch tape.”
Singer also stated that the news of the indictment will hurt his reputation, but that he will remain confident due to his innocence.
Authorities also believe that Singer filed false federal income tax returns and concealed insurance payouts from the IRS.
Singer (of course) denies doing any such thing. He stated, “If they continue to lie — and I can prove all their lies — they can’t win this case. You can’t win a case when you’re lying about things.”
Authorities who worked on some of the local cases say Singer involved others in his scheme as well — allegedly paying tenants or others to do the dirty work for him and set fire to a house or apartment.
But Singer said that would have never happened because he’s too “cheap.”
“I never paid anybody a dollar. To have someone burn down a house, you have to pay someone, I presume,” he said.
But a local Muskegon man, who declined to give his name, and was involved in business dealings with Singer for years, said Singer is “guilty.”
“He did this,” he said of the charges, “I hope he spends a long time in jail.”
The man also stated that Singer “bought and sold” the same homes “several times.”
“He would buy them cheap and sold them on land contracts, knowing he was going to get them back. Not only did he take them and burn them and collect the insurance money, he was preying on the weak. He was renting them to people who couldn’t get credit and rent anywhere else,” he said.
Singer noted that there is nothing illegal about buying and selling homes to low-income people.
“I’ve been in the business for 45 years. I buy fixer-uppers. The homes are in bad shape when I buy them. I fix them and rent them, sell them on land contract,” he said. “I’m an investor. This is how I make a living. I flip them and then I sell them. It was a way to bring in extra income.”
Before he got into the property management business, Singer said he managed his father’s fabric store, known as The Fair Fabrics & Gift Outlet, which is one of the nine properties he is accused of burning down.
That store burned down on June 20, 1999.
Singer stated that the fact that he’s been accused of burning it down is an insult. “I was 36-years-old when I took over The Fair,” he said. “It belonged to my father. It was in the family. I started working there when I was 12.”
He also stated, “It was a death to me. It was my life.” They said I paid someone $20,000 to have someone burn it down. I was in Chicago at the time.”
But, as we all know, you can pay someone money to do something and then just leave the state.
Many other properties of Singer’s burnt down before and after the fabric store incident. Singer says that shouldn’t be considered so odd though, considering he has hundreds of properties.
“If I had 30, and nine burned, now that would be considered suspicious,” he said.
Looking back, Singer said it had more to do with the neighborhoods he chose to do business in rather than about having bad luck.
“It’s like Russian roulette. You twirl your pistol and you fire it. When you rent in Muskegon Heights, it’s like that. It’s like Russian roulette. If you have a home that’s empty, it’s a target,” he said.
Singer suspects people have gone into his vacant homes and stolen scrap metal, then burned them down. He said, “They do it for kicks.”
Meanwhile, authorities said “on two other occasions” Singer allegedly “solicited tenants in other of his properties to burn down a building to collect insurance payments,” federal authorities said.
This post is authored by Trace America.