Crime

He led ring that set homes on fire to bilk insurance companies. He's now going to prison.

Jorge Espinosa appeared in Miami-Dade circuit court in February 2018.
Jorge Espinosa appeared in Miami-Dade circuit court in February 2018. Miami Herald

The ringleader of a criminal organization that defrauded insurance companies out of millions of dollars by setting fire to homes and then filing false claims will serve 20 years in state prison and pay $1.9 million in restitution.

Jorge Espinosa Sr. — who earlier this year allegedly plotted to 'take care of' a Miami prosecutor" by hiring a hit-man — was sentenced Friday. He had pleaded guilty to racketeering, conspiracy, and organized scheme to defraud, as well as more than 28 counts of arson and multiple counts of insurance fraud and grand theft.

The sentence was part of a plea deal struck with prosecutors. He didn't face additional charges in the supposed plot to harm the prosecutor.

“The insurance fraud ring that Jorge Fausto Espinosa Sr. led gave a sense of professionalism and expertise to the age-old crime of theft," said Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle in a news release.

Espinosa, 62, who owned the public adjuster company Nationwide Adjusters LLC, was arrested in 2014 as Operation Flames and Flood, a joint effort between the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office, the Bureau of Fire and Arson Investigations and the Miami-Dade Police Department.

According to the state attorney's office, Espinosa "intentionally set multiple homes on fire as well as caused water damage to other homes with the sole purpose of filing false and fraudulent insurance claims."

"The homeowners were recruited by Espinosa as part of his Arson for Hire Scheme involving homes in Miami-Dade, Lee and Collier County," the office wrote in a news release announcing Espinosa's sentence.

In May 2015, investigators announced another operation dubbed Operation Flames and Flood II that yielded an additional 31 arrests, all of which had ties to Espinosa's scheme, investigators said at the time.

In all, the state attorney's office said 14 insurance carriers were affected by the more than 50 false claims that totaled more than $14 million.

"Insurance policy holders were Espinosa’s real victims," Fernandez Rundle said. "This is a wonderful result for the hardworking prosecutors, police and fire investigators who put this complex case together and worked it to the proper ending.”

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