Former Saginaw Mayor Charged with Arson, Insurance Fraud

January 15, 2007

Former Sagnaw Mayor Wilmer Jones Ham was recently charged with arson and insurance fraud in the burning of her 1986 Mercedes-Benz.

Ham, 56, is the mother of ex-Detroit Pistons player Darvin Ham, who was part of the 2004 NBA championship team. He also played for six other teams. The New Jersey Nets waived him Oct. 28.

Michael D. Carpenter, prosecutor in neighboring Midland County, filed the felony charges against Ham in Saginaw County Circuit Court. She now serves on the Saginaw City Council and as mayor pro tem.

Carpenter is handling the Saginaw County case as a special prosecutor.

Ham presented a statement from her handyman that he accidentally set fire to the 1986 Mercedes diesel. Investigators say they have been unable to corroborate the confession.

Messages seeking comment from Ham were left by The Associated Press at her home and city office. Defense lawyer James F. Piazza said she would plead not guilty.

Arson of personal property worth between $1,000 and $20,000 carries up to five years in prison. Filing a fraudulent insurance claim carries up to four years, Carpenter said.

Ham is accused of setting the car on fire March 9, 2006, and trying to make a false insurance claim. Prosecutors said last spring that she was a person of interest in the fire.

Ham said last month that she would not seek re-election.

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