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Department of Justice

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

For Immediate Release

Tuesday, January 2, 2018
Dana J. Boente
, United States Attorney
Contact: Joshua Stueve

Man Sentenced to 40 Years in Prison for Arson-for-Profit Scheme

RICHMOND, Va. – A Florida man was sentenced today to 40 years in prison for running a 15-year insurance fraud scheme that involved at least 27 fires in two states.

Verdon Taylor, 72, of Leesburg, Florida, was convicted by a federal jury on Oct. 25, 2017, of conspiracy, wire fraud, use of fire to commit a federal felony, and witness tampering in connection with the fraud. According to court records and evidence presented at trial, Verdon Taylor and four co-conspirators, Vershawn Jackson, 39, and Marie Taylor, 55, both of Richmond, along with Sylvia Mitchell, aka Sylvia Jackson, 59, of Tampa, Florida, and Eugenia Fleming, 57, of Victoria, participated in a long-running arson-for-profit scheme in which the conspirators purchased cars or mobile homes at auction, or signed leases at rental properties, insured the property, and set fire to the insured property to collect insurance proceeds. In many instances, the time between the purchase of insurance and the fire was mere weeks or even days. The evidence at trial also showed that the defendants made a practice of staging mobile homes and rental properties with furniture and clothing that had been purchased at flea markets or auctions, and on several occasions had been in other properties that previously burned. Over the course of the scheme, defrauded insurance companies paid out over $1 million on claims by the conspirators.

Dana J. Boente, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, Thomas L. Chittum, III, Special Agent in Charge of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ (ATF) Washington Field Division, Henry Rosenbaum, Henrico County Fire Marshal, and David Creasey, Richmond Fire Marshal, made the announcement after sentencing by U.S. District Judge Robert E. Payne. Assistant U.S. Attorneys David V. Harbach, II, Michael C. Moore, and Janet Jin Ah Lee are prosecuting the case.

A copy of this press release is located on the website of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia. Related court documents and information is located on the website of the District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia or on PACER by searching for Case No. 3:17-cr-29.

Field Division: Washington Field Division