Financial Motive For Arson?

One type of case I really enjoy working is suspected arson. On either a personal or business level, an insurance company may be looking for a motive when arson is supsected. A difficult financial situation is one obvious motive for arson.

Today’s article about a fire at the house of a women accused of defrauding Wisconsin’s child care system brought this to mind. Latasha Jackson has gotten rich off of providing daycare services in the city of Milwaukee. But not just any daycare services. The ones paid for by the Wisconsin Shares program, essentially a welfare program that pays the daycare costs for low income families.

Jackson was suspected of defrauding the system by billing the state for children she was not actually caring for, but she remained in the Wisconsin Shares program for years anyway. When the Journal Sentinal made clear their intentions to publish a story about Jackson’s alleged fraud, the state finally cut her off and she turned herself into the authorities.

The fraud is pretty simple to commit under Wisconsin’s rules. A woman who is employed in a low paying job is eligible for child care for her children. If the woman is employed at a daycare, she can have paid childcare at that daycare facility for her children, sort of double-dipping. The daycare owner can defraud the system by falsely claiming that the woman is working at her daycare and falsely saying that her children are enrolled there. The state pays the daycare costs for the children, and the daycare owner will give a part of the proceeds to the mother who isn’t really working for her. (Sometimes the mothers do work at the daycare, but much less than is reported to the state, and the children actually attend the daycare far less than reported.)

In August 2009 alone, the newspaper reported that Jackson had been paid $90,000 through the Wisconsin Shares program. She has collected more than $3 million from the state since 1999. The total Jackson was paid from the state was over $830,000 in just 2006 alone.

The state was warned repeatedly that Jackson was committing fraud, with multiple reports of her billing the state for children who didn’t really attend the daycare. Inspectors also caught her numerous times not keeping proper attendance records.

Jackson’s Menomonee Falls house has been on the market for a while with an asking price of $1.5 million. And early this morning the fire department got a call about a big fire at the house. No one was in the house at the time. The damage to the home is currently estimated at $800,000, and the cause of the fire is under investigation.

UPDATE: Evidence of arson has been found.

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