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6 charged for allegedly setting homes on fire to collect insurance money

RICHMOND, Va. – Six people have been arrested for allegedly setting dozens of homes and cars on fire to illegally collect insurance money.

According to an indictment unsealed Friday, the insurance fraud conspiracy took place in Richmond, Henrico, Charles City, and Chesterfield counties, to even parts of Florida.

The crimes allegedly happened over a 16 year period, from as early as May 2000 until as recently as Nov. 30, 2016.

One of the fires happened in the Casey Meadows subdivision in Sandston. One witness told CBS 6 they will never forget the scene in the early morning hours of November 11, 2015.

Serina Richardson said she vividly remember her husband racing to the burning home to help, worried someone was inside.

"He was about to run in the house... I said don’t... It was engulfed and I didn’t know if it would blow up or anything," she said.

But the home was empty.

Now federal investigators believe the fire was just one of many that were intentionally set over that span of 16 years.

The indictment details how the buyer, Vershawn Jackson, 37, purchased the home just eight days before it burned to the ground.

Court documents show he collected $303,000 from the insurance company.

In addition to Jackson, the indictment names his father Verdon Taylor, Eugenia Fleming, Marie Taylor, Sylvia Mitchell and her son Dorel Watson.

Their charges include conspiracy to commit wire fraud and use of fire to commit a federal felony.

The documents outline how the six allegedly rented homes in Richmond, purchased cars, homes, and mobile homes to set them on fire and collect nearly $1 million in insurance money.

In total, the defendants are accused of intentionally setting over 30 fires.

“The details of each fire vary, but the frequent pattern was for the defendants allegedly to buy a car or home at auction or in foreclosure, insure it, and then collect insurance proceeds in excess of the purchase price after it burned,” said court documents.

Tuesday afternoon two of the six suspects are set to appear in federal court for a detention hearing. Two additional defendants are set to appear in court on March 22.