EDITORIAL — For the neighbors, there is no justice
A guilty plea announced in federal court in Beaumont this week — the charge was insurance fraud — cannot begin to reveal the pain that was caused to people who had nothing to do with the crimes.
Patrick Wayne Bronnon, 50, of Port Arthur pleaded guilty this week to “conspiracy to commit mail fraud and use of a fire in commission of a felony.” The U.S. Probation Office will do a presentence investigation, according to a news release, and U.S. District Court Judge Marcia Crone will impose sentence at a later date.
Bronnon agreed to serve 15 years in federal prison for his part in these crimes. Eleven other defendants also were indicted in the case a year ago.
These criminal cases center around a scam in which Bronnon and others would purchase homes through a “straw” buyer, provide them with down-payment money, give them money to buy insurance, then cause the structures to be destroyed or damaged by fire or water. Prosecutors did not return a call to The Port Arthur News asking about the other defendants and their cases.
In all, according to last year’s indictments, there were nine fraudulent fire claims, three fraudulent water damage claims and two fraudulent theft cases involving nine different addresses in cities that included Port Arthur, Port Neches, Beaumont and Sugarland. In all, some $1.7 million in claims were paid out to the defendants.
What surprised us most in this office was the reaction of some readers to the story, including some people who suggested that because the insurance companies charge what they considered to be high rates the companies — not those indicted — were at fault. How about that!
Well, consider this: When fraudulent claims are filed and paid, rates generally rise for everyone else. When fires are set and other harmful actions taken in fraud cases, they launch a series of actions for first-responders that can create the conditions for unintended accidents and injuries. Fires can spread out of control; first responders can get into wrecks.
This, too, troubled us, last year as we drove past some of the damaged properties in Greater Port Arthur — long after the crimes had been committed, long after homes were intentionally flooded or burned, the defendants left behind in the nearby neighborhoods hulking shells of damaged or destroyed structures that were as yet not cleared. That meant that neighbors, in some cases neighbors who kept their lawns cuts, who painted their homes, who did their best to keep neat and tidy properties, were living in neighborhoods diminished in value by the eyesores the fraudulent actions of others caused.
Lots of folks were damaged or could have been damaged by the willful, greedy actions of defendants in this case. Where do those neighbors turn for justice?