U.S. Department of Justice
United States Attorney
Western District of Michigan
Western District of Michigan
For Immediate Release
November 7, 2013
Patrick A. Miles, Jr., United States Attorney
Contact: Kaye Hooker, Public Information Officer
Muskegon Landlord Convicted of Arson, Insurance Fraud, and Tax Fraud Sent to Federal Prison for 55 Years
GRAND RAPIDS, MICHIGAN — Gerald Eugene Singer, 74, of Muskegon, Michigan, was sentenced to 55 years in prison, U.S. Attorney Patrick Miles announced today. In addition to the prison terms, United States District Judge Gordon J. Quist also ordered Singer to pay $653,140 in restitution to the victims of his crimes.
Singer was convicted by a jury in March 2013 of two counts of arson, three counts of using fire to commit mail fraud, one count of mail fraud, and five counts of tax fraud after a 16–day trial at which nearly 100 witnesses testified. The jury found that Singer committed arson and used fire to commit mail fraud at the following properties:
- 1292 E. Broadway, Norton Shores, MI, a commercial building formerly known as "The Fair" fabric store, which was insured by Hartford Insurance and Westport Insurance (destroyed by fire on June 20, 1999);
- 250 Myrtle St., Muskegon, MI, an investment/rental property which was insured by Foremost Insurance (destroyed by fire on November 9, 2006); and
- 2608–2614 7th Street, Muskegon Heights, MI, a four–unit apartment complex insured by Farm Bureau General Insurance Company (destroyed by fire on August 28, 2007).
The mail fraud charge included those properties as well as fires at six additional properties and two attempted fires at properties in Muskegon Heights, MI.
The jury also convicted Singer of filing a false tax–related document each year between 2005 and 2008 for failing to disclose to the IRS approximately $500,000 in insurance proceeds from the fire at "The Fair" fabric store in Norton Shores. Singer also was convicted of obstructing the administration of tax laws by causing false individual income tax returns for tax years 2005 through 2008 to be filed; making false and misleading statements to IRS officials about his individual income tax returns; misleading his tax preparer by withholding information; concealing income from the IRS by means of "structuring" the payout of insurance funds; and causing the filing of false home buyer tax credit claims against the IRS.
U.S. Attorney Miles said, "Arson endangers the lives of residents, neighbors and first responders, it raises the cost of insurance for everyone, and it harms neighborhoods. Today, Mr. Singer received the bitter fruits of his continual disregard for others. He learned that arson and fraud do not pay. He will be spending a long time where he belongs, which is in prison."
Daryl McCrary, Acting Special Agent in Charge of the Detroit office of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives ("ATF") and Carolyn Weber, Acting Special Agent in Charge of the Detroit office of the Internal Revenue Service–Criminal Investigation ("IRS–CI"), joined in the announcement of the sentences.
ATF Acting Special Agent in Charge Daryl McCrary said, "This complex multi–layered, multi–agency investigation further displays that arson (arson for profit) crimes are not victimless fires, they result in the loss of income and the loss of property. Mr. Singer’s wanton criminal acts have altered and endangered the lives of many citizens in the community, including the fire fighters who responded to these fires," said McCrary. "This sentence will not heal the individuals affected, but we hope it will deter others from committing heinous acts of arson in the future."
IRS Criminal Investigation Acting Special Agent in Charge, Carolyn Weber, stated, "Gerald Singer lined his pockets with the proceeds of false insurance claims. IRS will vigorously pursue those who seek to profit from illegal activities."
Under federal sentencing laws, the Court was required to sentence Singer to at least 5 years and up to 20 years in prison for the arson convictions. The law also mandated that Singer receive a consecutive minimum sentence of 10 years for the first conviction of using fire to commit mail fraud and two additional mandatory consecutive minimum sentences of 20 years for the second and third convictions for using fire to commit mail fraud.
This case was investigated by the Grand Rapids offices of the ATF and IRS–CI, and the Muskegon Heights Fire Department. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Michael MacDonald and Christopher O’Connor prosecuted the case.