High living had left Chicago grain futures executive Marc Thompson deeply in debt. In desperation, he torched his home for the $730,000 in insurance money. To make it appear a suicide, he led his 90-year-old mother Carmen downstairs, doused the basement with accelerant and tossed the match. Now Thompson's own future is secure -- for 190 years in federal prison.
Who would burn down their own home, not to mention their own mother, for the money? People caught unprepared for the worst recession in 80 years, that's who.
"People in small but increasing numbers were burning down their homes," says Quiggle. "Often the houses went up in smoke and flames just before the homes were to be foreclosed. People were upside-down on their mortgages, they felt cornered financially, and in acts of desperation, they burned down their own homes."
Lost property claims also surged as the economy tanked.
"People would report their stereo stolen; maybe it was worth $3,000 but they claimed it was worth $8,000. Diamond wedding and engagement rings started seriously getting lost. That kind of crime that could net you a few thousand dollars became more prevalent than ever," Quiggle says.