DOJ Seal

Department of Justice

U.S. Attorney's Office
Eastern District of California

For Immediate Release

Thursday, February 4, 2016
Benjamin B. Wagner
, United States Attorney
Contact: Lauren Horwood

Antelope Couple Sentenced to 15 Years in Prison for the Arson of Their Home

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — An Antelope couple was sentenced today by Chief United States District Judge Morrison C. England Jr. to 15 years in prison each for four felony counts related to the arson of their former home and home-based business, United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner announced.

After a 10-day trial, a jury found Alexander Sakhanskiy, 43, and Larisa Sakhanskiy, 45, guilty of arson to commit another felony, two counts of mail fraud, and arson affecting interstate commerce. Judge England also ordered the defendants to pay nearly $540,000 in restitution to the insurance company that had paid their fraudulent claim.

According to evidence introduced at trial, on May 22, 2010, a gasoline-fueled fire destroyed the Sakhanskiys’ home in Antelope, a single-family residence at 5745 Hawkeye Lane, that was also the business location of “Alex’s Plumbing.” Prior to the fire, the Sakhanskiys removed most of their personal belongings from the house. Firefighters testified that the residential fire sprinkler system and smoke detectors had been deactivated. Although the fire resulted in the total destruction of the house, firefighters were able to prevent the fire from spreading to neighboring homes.

Evidence at trial showed that the Sakhanskiys had set the fire or caused the fire to be set to collect insurance money from Farmers Insurance Group, Mid-Century Insurance Company for hundreds of thousands of dollars of property they claimed was destroyed in the fire. In filing the claim, the defendants falsely claimed that hundreds of thousands of dollars of property was destroyed in the fire, when most of the contents of the house had been removed and hidden before the fire.

“For-profit arsonists like the Sakhanskiys allow their own personal greed to lead them to intentional acts that endanger the lives of themselves, their neighbors, and the first responders who are diverted from the accidental hazards of everyday life,” said U.S. Attorney Wagner. “We are pleased with today’s sentences, which reflect the gravity this offense, and are grateful for the hard work and cooperation of the ATF, the Sacramento Metropolitan Fire District, and the Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office in securing this result.”

“The Sakhanskiys committed arson in an attempt to defraud their insurance company, in turn placing their neighbors, firefighters and first responders in serious danger,” said ATF Special Agent in Charge Jill A. Snyder. “This investigation was a joint effort with our state and local partners.”

John Barsdale, Metro Fire Supervising Fire Investigator stated: “Keeping our communities safe is Metro Fire’s top priority, whether that means rapidly mitigating an emergency or working with our partner agencies to thoroughly investigate a fire scene and put an arsonist behind bars. Metro Fire's investigation team spent several hundred hours investigating this fire and conducting follow up investigations in order to successfully make an arrest and close the case.”

This case was the product of an investigation by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the Sacramento Metropolitan Fire District. The Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office assisted investigators with the initial fire investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Michael D. Anderson and Nirav Desai prosecuted the case.

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Field Division: San Francisco Field Division