Groves man found guilty of arson, fraud after withdrawing plea conviction; faces up to 90 years in prison

Published 12:14 am Wednesday, October 23, 2019

BEAUMONT — A Groves man originally facing 15 years in federal prison as part of a plea deal for arson and insurance fraud charges is now looking at a much lengthier sentence.

Patrick Wayne Bronnon, 51, first pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit mail fraud and use of a fire in commission of a felony in May but shortly afterward filed a motion to withdraw his plea, basically asking for a trial.

The trial occurred over an eight-day period before U.S. District Judge Marcia A. Crone, according to a press release from the Department of Justice. The jury deliberated approximately 75 minutes before returning Monday with a guilty verdict.

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Joe Batte, an assistant attorney with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, did not prosecute the case but provided information to The Port Arthur News regarding the case. He explained that earlier this month a superseding indictment was issued on Bronnon. The original indictment from 2018 named Bronnon along with 11 other defendants.

 The charges

According to information presented in court, beginning in 2011, Bronnon, and others, began executing a scheme to defraud various insurance companies through fraudulent claims on homes and vehicles.

The scheme involved identifying a low value property and purchasing it through a co-defendant straw purchaser.

Within a few weeks of a down payment being made, Bronnon or an associate would intentionally damage the home, typically by fire or water, in order to collect insurance proceeds. In total, nine fraudulent fire claims, three fraudulent water damage claims and two fraudulent theft claims were filed with various insurance companies on nine addresses, totaling approximately $1.7 million in fraudulent payments.

The properties were located in Port Arthur, Port Neches, Beaumont and Sugar Land.

“This was a scheme motivated by greed,” U.S. Attorney Joseph D. Brown said. “It cost insurance companies certainly, but it also endangered people — emergency personnel, neighbors and others. And these frauds contribute to higher insurance costs for all of us.  We take these things very seriously.”

Under the federal statute, Bronnon faces up to 20 years in federal prison at sentencing for the conspiracy and mail fraud counts and up to 70 years for the use of fire in commission of felony violations.

This case was investigated by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, National Insurance Crime Bureau and prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Christopher T. Tortorice and K.P. Kennedy Gates.