A former Iowa firefighter pleaded guilty to insurance fraud related to a string of cases spanning Buchanan, Clayton and Delaware counties, the Iowa Department of Insurance reported.
Terry Russell Groth, a former Strawberry Point firefighter, entered the plea on Feb. 16, 2016. It’s third conviction for Groth related to these cases.
“Occasionally, as in this case, evidence doesn’t surface for years, but once it does, law enforcement and insurance company investigators identify those who committed the fraud and prosecute them,” Iowa Insurance Commissioner Nick Gerhart said. “It’s important for Iowans to understand that we all end up paying for insurance fraud as it drives up insurance premiums for all Iowans.”
Groth and his accomplices, Damian Welsh of Strawberry Point and Zachary Norton of Monticello, were charged in Buchanan County District Court with arson and insurance fraud on Sept. 8, 2014.
Groth pled guilty to Arson in the 2nd degree, on Dec. 8, 2015. On the charge of Norton received a deferred judgment on the same charge on June 30, 2015, and Welsh received a deferred judgment on Aug. 4, 2015.
On Jan. 6, 2016, Groth pled guilty in Delaware County District Court to Fraudulent Practices in the 3rd degree, an aggravated misdemeanor.
Groth’s accomplice, Welsh, had previously pled guilty to Criminal Mischief in the 3rd degree, an aggravated misdemeanor on October 21, 2015.
The insurance fraud began when Groth’s truck was found burned beyond repair on a rural Buchanan County road on Sept.10, 2011. Groth filed an insurance claim with Progressive Insurance, alleging that his truck had been stolen from his Strawberry Point shop, which he said had also been burglarized.
On Oct.10, 2011, when Groth filed a claim with Farm Bureau Insurance for tools that he alleged were stolen in a previous burglary to his shop in Clayton County. He received insurance proceeds in the amount of $7,988.96.
On Sept. 27, 2012, Groth filed another insurance claim with Farm Bureau Insurance claiming that his father’s property at 424 Brewer St. in Manchester, had been vandalized by an unknown perpetrator who caused damage to the walls and carpet of the home. Farm Bureau issued a payment in the amount of $4,939.49.
In early 2013, information surfaced that prompted law enforcement authorities with the Iowa State Fire Marshal’s Office and the Iowa Insurance Fraud Bureau to review Groth’s insurance claims history.
As the investigation continued, officers determined Groth paid Welsh and Norton to steal Groth’s truck, drive it to a predetermined location in Buchanan County and set fire to the truck.
The investigation also revealed Groth provided false information to his insurance company concerning the theft of his truck and the theft of tools from his truck and shop, and further evidence determined Groth had paid Welsh $100 to vandalize the Manchester home for the purpose of collecting insurance proceeds.
These investigations included collaborative efforts of officials from the Iowa State Fire Marshal’s Office, the Buchanan County Sheriff’s Office, the Buchanan County Attorney’s Office, the Delaware County Attorney’s Office, the Clayton County Attorney’s Office, the Iowa National Insurance Crime Bureau and Insurance Fraud Bureau.
Source: Iowa Department of Insurance