A Deceptive Inferno: State Farm Wins in Court against Deceitful House Fire Claims


A Riveting Tale of Insurance Fraud and its Impact on Public Trust.

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A Burning Deception Unveiled

We all have moments of desperation, but how far would you go? This is the story of Stephanie Converse, a woman who tried to deceive State Farm insurance, her insurance company, and an entire judicial system, only to be met with a stern reality check by Senior U.S. District Judge Thomas J. McAvoy.

The Incendiary Plan

In the charming town of Watertown, New York, Stephanie Converse, co-owner of a rented property with her brother, penned a fateful letter to Joe Pelton. She asked him to do the unthinkable – set her property ablaze. The fiery scheme was intended to look like an accident, with promises of $5,000 compensation and specific instructions for a weekday arson. However, Pelton, conscious of potential harm to others, declined her dangerous proposal.

The Unraveling of Truth

Despite Pelton’s refusal, the property unexpectedly caught fire, allegedly from a discarded lit cigarette. The resulting blaze caused approximately $230,000 in damage, but thankfully, due to functional smoke alarms, all tenants escaped unharmed. Converse then filed a claim with State Farm for the damages incurred.

A Twisted Tale Unveiled

As the investigation unfolded, Converse’s deception was laid bare. Initially, she denied her arson proposition to State Farm, but a recorded confession later made to a sheriff’s detective contradicted her statement. Converse confessed, “I had reached out to somebody and asked them to burn my house down… Joe Pelton.”

Upon denial of her claim by State Farm in 2020, Converse and her brother escalated the issue to the Supreme Court of Jefferson County, New York. Their case was later moved to federal court.

Judge’s Verdict: In Favor of State Farm

Judge McAvoy found Converse culpable of deceiving State Farm and obstructing the investigation with her dishonesty and non-cooperation. He emphasized that her breach of the insurance contract was evident from her inconsistent statements and delays in providing proof of loss. Her brother’s claims were dismissed as he hadn’t made any financial contributions towards the property, making his interests “speculative.”

The attorney for the Converse family, Murzin, mentioned they’re still in the process of determining their next move in the case.

Impact and Implications: Public Trust vs. Insurance Fraud

This case serves as a stern reminder of the consequences of deception, not only to the individuals involved but also to the public at large.

For State Farm, and indeed all insurance providers, this case underscores the necessity for robust investigations into claims. For consumers, it’s a wake-up call about the implications of insurance fraud – increased premiums for everyone and a potential decline in trust in the insurance industry.

As we wait to see what the next steps will be for Converse and her legal representation, the case’s echoes reverberate through the insurance industry, emphasizing that truth, honesty, and transparency are paramount.

Ann Marie Murzin of Westfall Law PLLC represents Stephanie and Richard Converse. State Farm Fire and Casualty is represented by James P. Lagios of Capital District Physicians’ Health Plan Inc., Michael A. Troisi and Michael P. Welch of Rivkin Radler LLP, and Steven Mach of Rose Waldorf PLLC.

The case is Converse et al. v. State Farm Fire and Casualty Co., case number 5:21-CV-00457, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York.