Edmonds, Washington business owner pleads guilty to wire fraud in connection with her arson for insurance scheme

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Seattle —An Edmonds, Washington, business owner pleaded guilty today to wire fraud related to the April 30, 2018, fire at her business, CJN Miniatures & More, a dollhouse, miniatures, collectibles, and antiques shop, announced Acting U.S. Attorney Tessa M. Gorman.  Connie L. Bigelow, 53, is scheduled for sentencing by U.S. District Judge Robert S. Lasnik on December 17, 2021 at 10am.

In the plea agreement, Bigelow admits she set fire to her business to collect insurance money as the store was struggling to make enough money to pay the rent.  Bigelow moved her business, CJN Miniatures LLC, into the building at 23030 Highway 99, in Edmonds in September 2017.  The store maintained an inventory of miniatures and collectables for sale, consigned items on behalf of other individuals, and rented out space to other vendors.  Between October 2017 and April 2018, the business fell behind in rental payments and payments to consigners. 

Bigelow carried an insurance policy with State Farm Fire and Casualty Company that covered up to $100,000 in loss of business personal property, as well as loss of income.  The policy did not cover loss arising from arson.

Bigelow set the fire underneath three Thomas Kinkade paintings worth thousands of dollars.  In May 2018, Bigelow initiated a claim to State Farm for the losses arising from the fire.  On May 3, 2018, Bigelow communicated with the insurance agent via email as part of the wire fraud scheme.  Bigelow made false statements to law enforcement, as well as representatives of State Farm as part of the scheme to defraud.

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As part of the plea agreement, Bigelow agrees to make full restitution.  Currently the restitution is over $195,000 but may grow as further losses are calculated in advance of sentencing.

Wire fraud is punishable by up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Judge Lasnik will determine the appropriate sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

The case is being investigated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives (ATF), along with the Snohomish County Fire Marshals’ Office.  The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Amy Jaquette.

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