N.Y. Man Sentenced for Fraud in Dairy Barn Fire

December 1, 2006

Peter Mravlja of Decatur, N.Y., was officially sentenced subsequent to his plea of guilty to felony insurance fraud following a joint investigation into a suspicious fire at his dairy barn on April 20, 2003, according to state officials.

Mravlja’s sentence consists of a $50,000 fine to be paid by the end of next year, plus a $5,000 surcharge; a $150 DNA fee; a five-year felony probation term; 1,000 hours of community service over the next five years in five firehouses that responded to the blaze (Mravlja was a volunteer fireman); and an order to sell all of his guns.

The announcement was made by Superintendent of Insurance Howard Mills and Otsego County District Attorney John Muehl.

The investigation was the first conducted under a new pilot program initiated by Mills. Under this program, the state lends an experienced insurance fraud prosecutor to local counties to act as an assistant district attorney. In this case, the fraud prosecutor was charged with responsibility for investigating and evaluating the merits of the fire and corresponding insurance claim.

William Andrews, an attorney with the insurance department’s office of general counsel, served as a special assistant district attorney to the Otsego County DA’s office and presented the case to a grand jury that brought indictments for arson, insurance fraud and witness tampering against Mravlja.

According to officials, Mravlja called 911 on Easter Sunday 2003, to report a fire in the dairy barn at Mravlja Farms, 315 County Highway 37, Worcester, N.Y., owned jointly by Mravlja and his father, George. Thereafter six local fire departments and 53 volunteer firemen responded and battled the barn fire for almost seven hours. During the course of the fire, one fireman was physically injured and 23 beef calves perished. The farm subsequently closed.

The fire’s origins were listed at the time as “undetermined” because an electrical malfunction could not be ruled out as a potential cause. Otsego County Patrons Co-Operative Fire Relief Association of Schenevus, New York, their insurer, paid Mravlja Farms a total of $143,555.81 to compensate the Mravlja family for the losses they incurred. Given a confidential tip that the Mravlja Farms fire may not have been an accident, the association subsequently asked the New York State Insurance Department’s Frauds Bureau to revisit the case.

Source: NYSID

Topics New York Fraud Agribusiness

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