Prosecution Error Frees PA Insurance Fraud Couple

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Philadelphia has been forced to drop all charges against a Bucks County couple accused of hiring a handyman to burn down their luxury home and cars in order to obtain a $1.1 million insurance payment, as it failed to prosecute the case within the Statute of Limitations.

As reported by the Philadelphia Inquirer, federal prosecutors were under the mistaken impression that they had 10 years to bring the case to trial rather than 5, but the legislation extending the Statute was passed in 1996 (following the bombing of the Federal Building in Oklahoma City), and was not made retroactive. The crime, which James Saracino, a State Farm Insurance Agent, and his wife Barbara, a physician, were accused of took place in 1995.

The Saracinos, who still face a civil trial seeking to attach their new home on the grounds that it was purchased with illegally obtained insurance proceeds, have maintained their innocence, and have accused the handyman, John Manwaring Jr., of setting the fire to cover a burglary. Saracino remains a State Farm Agent in Doylestown, Pennsylvania.

Part of the delay in prosecuting the case was due to the fact that until 1998 it had been considered an accident. On the night of the fire Manwaring had to be rescued by neighbors from the roof on which he’d been trapped. He finally began cooperating with investigating authorities, and revealed the alleged plot.