Richmond Woman Charged with Defrauding Tongan Community in $13 Million Stockton-Based International Ponzi Scheme
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — After a 10-day trial before Chief United States District Judge Morrison C. England Jr., a jury returned its verdict today finding a Sacramento couple guilty on all four counts related to the arson of their former home in Antelope, United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner announced.
The jury found Alexander Sakhanskiy, 43, and Larisa Sakhanskiy, 46, guilty of arson to commit another felony, two counts of mail fraud, and arson affecting interstate commerce. After today’s verdict, the judge ordered the defendants to be taken into custody.
According to evidence introduced at trial, on May 22, 2010, a gasoline-fueled fire destroyed the defendants’ home, a single-family house at 5745 Hawkeye Lane, in Antelope, California; the home was also being used as the business location of “Alex’s Plumbing.” Prior to the fire, the defendants removed most of their personal belongings from the house. Firefighters testified that the residential fire sprinkler system and smoke detectors had been deactivated. The fire resulted in the total destruction of the house, however, firefighters were able to prevent the fire from spreading to neighboring homes.
Evidence at trial showed that the defendants had set the fire or caused the fire to be set in order to collect insurance money from Farmers Insurance Group, Mid-Century Insurance Company. In filing the claim, the defendants falsely claimed that hundreds of thousands of dollars of property was destroyed in the fire, when in reality, most of the contents of the house had been removed and hidden before the fire.
Eric Harden, ATF Acting Special Agent in Charge of the San Francisco Field Division, said: “Arson is an act of violence and endangers our communities. Let this case be a warning, we are committed to aggressively pursue arson investigations with our law enforcement partners.”
This case is 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 are prosecuting the case.
The defendants are scheduled to be sentenced on December 4, 2015. They face a minimum statutory penalty of 10 years in prison, a $250,000 fine, and a three-year term of supervised release for the charge of arson to commit another felony. The mail fraud counts carry a potential penalty of up to 20 years in prison, a $250,000 fine, and a three-year term of supervised release. The actual sentences, however, will be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables.