N.Y. Arson Ring Leader Faces 10-Year Sentence

The leader of an arson ring that collected more than $400,000 in fraudulent insurance claims for fires in three New York counties is scheduled to surrender Sept. 18 to serve a 10-year federal prison sentence, according to state officials.

James Insinga, 61, of Binghamton, has been ordered to surrender to the U.S. Bureau of Prisons. A former real estate agent in the Delaware County Town of Sidney, Insinga remains under the supervision of a federal probation officer until he begins his sentence. He has also been ordered to pay restitution of $430,000.

Insinga’s sentencing in U.S. District Court in Binghamton on Aug. 7 capped a six-year long investigation into arsons in Delaware, Otsego and Chenango counties dating to the early 1990s. Insinga earlier pleaded guilty to arson and conspiracy. He is one of six people convicted and sentenced in the cases.

The cases resulted from allegations that Insinga and the others profited by filing fraudulent insurance claims following the fires.

According to Sean Ralph of the New York State Insurance Department’s Frauds Bureau, the investigation was opened in 2001when the department was contacted by Karl Vaghts of the Delaware County Sheriff’s office.

Ralph said Vaghts had received “source information” that Insinga had solicited an individual to purchase a home, furnish it, place insurance on it and then burn it. “The plan was very detailed and included how to set the fire so it would not be suspected,” Ralph said.

Investigators then linked Insinga to the fires when they discovered his name and the name of Anthony Roefs, his business partner, on mortgages for the properties.

Relying on various surveillance techniques that included covert recordings to gather evidence, authorities eventually implicated and charged Insinga, Roefs, 68, of Port Charlotte, Fla., and four others. They are Gabriel Bonacci, 36, and Joseph Bonacci, 30, both of Sidney, Delaware County; Pietro Basile, 60, of 5 Parker Dr., Elmira; and Nadine Sieburt, 47, of Brick, N.J.

Ralph said it took authorities six years to conclude the investigation because investigators had to re-open long closed cases in which fires originally had been ruled accidental and insurance claims had been settled and paid.

“The fires were set in such a way that fire investigators initially had been unable to identify the fact that they were intentionally set,” Ralph said.

In one of the cases, Insinga allegedly persuaded Gabriel Bonacci to set fire to a Chenango County rental property when Bonacci was unable to meet mortgage payments on the property. The mortgage was held by Insinga and Roefs.

Gabriel Bonacci enlisted the aid of his brother, Joseph Bonacci, to set the fire, which resulted in an insurance settlement of $42,310. The Bonaccis are now serving sentences that include both home detention and probation. In July, Roefs was sentenced to two years of probation and ordered to pay a $20,000 fine for conspiracy.

In another case, Insinga allegedly conspired with Sieburt to set fire to Sieburt’s Delaware County home. Sieburt, formerly a real estate agent in Insinga’s office, is currently serving five years probation as a result of her guilty plea in the case.

In addition to the Insurance Department, the Delaware County Sheriff’s office, the New York State Police and the Binghamton office of the FBI participated in the investigation, along with fire coordinators and fire departments in Delaware, Otsego and Chenango counties. Assistant U.S. Attorney Kevin P. Dooley of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Binghamton prosecuted the cases.

Source: NYSID