Seattle – An Edmonds, Washington, business owner was sentenced today in U.S. District Court in Seattle to five years of probation, with one year of house arrest, for wire fraud related to the April 30, 2018, fire at her business, CJN Miniatures & More, a dollhouse, miniatures, collectibles, and antiques shop, announced U.S. Attorney Nick Brown. Connie L. Bigelow, 54, set the fire to try to collect insurance money to solve her financial troubles. At the sentencing hearing U.S. District Judge Robert S. Lasnik said he was opting for home confinement because of the COVID pandemic.
According to records filed in the case, Bigelow 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.
Prosecutors had asked for a year in prison, citing the inherent danger of the fire and the losses to the community. In pleading guilty, Bigelow agreed to make full restitution. Currently the restitution is over $200,000 to the building owners and some 50 victims who lost consigned items in the fire.
The case was investigated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives (ATF), along with the Snohomish County Fire Marshals’ Office. The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Amy Jaquette.
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