Jailhouse Romance, Flammable Artwork and Stolen Gun Lead to Fraud Charges

By Jim Sams | November 25, 2019

A former San Francisco deputy sheriff who hooked up with one of the inmates at her jail and plotted with him to file a $67,000 insurance claim was sentenced last week to 14 months in prison.

Thursday’s sentencing of April Myres — a 20-year veteran of the sheriff’s department — was one two insurance fraud cases that moved forward last week involving reports of stolen guns. Insurance fraud investigators also announced cases involving an arson in Washington state that destroyed works by a famous artist and a wage-loss scam in North Carolina.

Federal prosecutors say that Myres, 55, had a jailhouse romance with Antoine Fowler, who was released from San Francisco County Jail in January 2016 after serving six years for weapons trafficking. FBI agents said that before Fowler was released he “had let it be known” that the lover he called “Scarlett Red” had bought him a Glock with a 30-round clip to give to him when he was released, according to the indictment.

On March 25, 2016, Myres reported to San Francisco police that her home had been burglarized. She reported that her duty weapon, badge, body armor and hand radio had been stolen, along with numerous personal items.

Myres filed a claim with Farmers Insurance seeking reimbursement for her weapon and other duty equipment, even though those items had been issued to her by the sheriff’s office. She also claimed to have lost expensive designer wear, including a Louis Vuitton wallet, Yves Saint Laurent bag, Gucci rain boots, white diamond earrings and a fox fur vest.

Fowler, however, had told an FBI informant that he had the keys to Myres house because he had been living with her up until the night of the alleged burglary, when he left after they got into a fight. The informant said Fowler told him Myres had given him the Glock pistol and that he still had it.

Police found the pistol on Fowler when they arrested him 10 months after the alleged burglary. A jury convicted Myres on fraud charges last June. Fowler pleaded guilty to one count of being an ex-convict in possession of a firearm. He is scheduled to be sentenced on Jan. 7.

Gun, Truck and Lost Wages

A stolen gun claim also led to one of three fraud arrests announced by North Carolina Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey on Friday.

The Insurance Department says 30-year-old David Keith Phillips, 30 of Newport for trying to pull a fast one on USAA. Phillips reported to the Cateret County Sheriff’s Office that his Taurus .380 pistol has been stolen before he added the pistol to his USAA Insurance valuable personal property policy on Aug. 23. He filed the claim a claim reporting the theft to his insurer on Sept. 9, the Insurance Department said.

Phillips was booked into jail Nov. 8 and released on $2,500 unsecured bond.

Also on Friday, the North Carolina Insurance Department announced charges against 58-year-old Jerry Cornelius Clemonts of Roanoke Rapids and 28-year-old Francis Quarshie of Greensboro on fraud charges.

The department’s Criminal Investigations Unit says Clemonts tried to scam Geico Insurance out of $6,551.25 this summer by claiming his 2005 Ford F-250 was damaged in a hit-and-run accident. Actually, the truck was damaged when he bought it, investigators say.

Clemonts was arrested Nov. 9 and placed under a $5,000 secured bond pending a Dec. 4 hearing at Halifax County District Court, the department said.

Quarshie filed a $64,000 loss-wage claim against the North Carolina Farm Bureau Insurance Co., stating that he was not employed between April 8 and Sept 26, the department said.

Special agents served Quarshie with a summons to appear Dec. 4 at Guilford County District Court on charges of insurance fraud and attempting to gain property under false pretenses.

Collectors’ Items

A suspicious fire that destroyed a curios business in Edmonds, Washington led to a fraud charge against the owner, 52-year-old Connie L. Bigelow.

Bigelow sold miniatures, collectibles, art and consigned items at her CJN Miniatures store on Highway 99. But in late 2017 and early 2018, the business fell behind in rent payments and Bigelow bounced checks, federal prosecutors say.

The building was destroyed by fire on April 30, 2018. An indictment by the U.S. Attorneys Office for the Western District of Washington charges that Bieglow set the fire in three distinct locations within the building, each of them underneath one of three Thomas Kincade paintings that were worth thousands of dollars.

Kincade, a Sacramento, Calif. artist, is known for mass marketing works with pastoral and idyllic settings, some of which include Disney cartoon characters. The indictment offers no hint as to why Bigelow would use the works as kindling.

Bigelow’s local newspaper, the Herald in Everett, Washington, reported Friday that Bigelow had posted comments about the fire on Facebook page, with a link to a GoFund me page that had raised nearly $3,000. “Shattered dreams are hard enough to deal with, but add on the pressure of all the items gone, dealing with investigators, & knowing everything I worked so hard for gone & I am heart broken,” she said in a post, according to the newspaper.

Bigelow was released from custody after she was arrested Thursday. Arraignment is scheduled for Dec. 5.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives investigated the case, along with the Snohomish County Fire Marshals Office.

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