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Press Release

Four KC Residents Indicted for Arson, Insurance Fraud Conspiracy

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Western District of Missouri

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Tammy Dickinson, United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, announced today that four Kansas City, Mo., residents have been indicted for their roles in an arson and insurance fraud conspiracy.


Tina L. Shonk, 34, Roy Thieman, 30, Joseph Levi Little, 40, and Tyler Sutton, 53, all of Kansas City, were charged in a five-count indictment returned by a federal grand jury in Kansas City, Mo., on Tuesday, April 28, 2015.


The federal indictment alleges that Shonk led the arson and insurance fraud conspiracy in 2014. She allegedly obtained renter’s insurance on a house she rented, burned the house with the help of co-conspirators, and then made false claims on the insured property resulting in a total loss to insurance companies of $235,464.


According to the indictment, Shonk rented a residence in the 3500 block of Garfield in Kansas City, Mo., for about three years. In 2014, the indictment says, Shonk obtained renter’s insurance in the amount of $60,000, much more than the value of her personal property. At the time Shonk obtained renter’s insurance, she owed approximately $7,929 in back due rent, and had the gas shut off due to non-payment.


Shonk and her co-conspirators allegedly moved all of her personal property of any value to a storage unit. They allegedly moved damaged and broken electronic equipment and appliances into the residence so that it would appear that valuable appliances were destroyed. In April 2014, according to the indictment, Shonk owed $10,356 in back due rent and eviction proceedings had been initiated by her landlord.


Shonk, Thieman and Little allegedly set fire to the residence on April 4, 2014, by covering a space heater with a blanket and setting fire to the blanket. The Kansas City Fire Department extinguished the fire but the house was a total loss.


After the fire, Shonk made false claims to the insurance company as to the value of her property, that her property was in the house at the time of the fire, and also that she had no knowledge of, or involvement in, the fire. She received a $57,364 check from the insurance company, which was deposited into a bank account controlled by Sutton. Shonk allegedly paid $2,500 to Thieman and $4,000 to Little for their criminal assistance.


In May 2014, Shonk and Thieman moved into a house in the 3800 block of Pittman Road in Kansas City, Mo., a property managed by Sutton. Co-conspirators allegedly discussed repeating the arson insurance fraud scheme at the Pittman Road house. According to the indictment, Thieman wrote a letter to Shonk outlining plans to insure their personal property and then burn the house, stating in part, “there can be no evidence, nor signs of foul play, or accelerant.”


In addition to the conspiracy, Shonk, Thieman and Little are charged together in one count of arson. Shonk and Sutton are charged together in two counts of money laundering related to conducting financial transactions which involved the proceeds of unlawful activity. Shonk is also charged with one count of mail fraud.


The indictment also contains a forfeiture allegation, which would require all of the defendants to forfeit to the government any proceeds obtained as the result of the alleged violations, including $62,364.


Dickinson cautioned that the charges contained in this indictment are simply accusations, and not evidence of guilt. Evidence supporting the charges must be presented to a federal trial jury, whose duty is to determine guilt or innocence.


This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Kathleen D. Mahoney. It was investigated by the Kansas City, Mo., Police Department and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.

Updated April 29, 2015