COLUMBIA, S.C. (WMBF) – Two local women pleaded guilty on Friday on insurance fraud charges.
Tracie Lee Grice, 48, of Tabor City pleaded guilty to one count of third-degree arson and one count of making false insurance claim to obtain benefits for fire loss.
Heather Beach Massey, 39, of Dillon pleaded guilty to one count of presenting false claim for insurance payment, value $10,000 or more.
Emergency crews responded on Aug. 22, 2018 to Grice’s home in Dillon County to a fire that resulted in smoke damage to her mobile home. The next day, firefighters responded to another, more severe fire at the same property. The first fire was caused by a pot of cooking oil left on the stove. Authorities said the second fire, curtains were intentionally set on fire by a candle.
The State Law Enforcement Division was brought in to investigate and discovered that Grice intentionally left the grease pan on the stove and that she was upset that it didn’t destroy the home.
The next day, Grice asked Massey to help with the second fire.
Grice staged the house before the fire by removing all her good furniture and told Massey to not call the fire department because they would arrive too quickly. Massey said that night she went into the home and lit a pillow and curtains on fire.
Investigators discovered that Grice wanted the home burned because she was behind on her payments. Massey also put together a fake lease so that Grice would have a standing claim to the losses.
Grice filed an insurance claim for $91,200 in damages, but she was not paid due to suspected fraud.
“This was a dangerous scheme that put firefighters’ lives at risk,” said Attorney General Alan Wilson. “Our insurance fraud unit is working tirelessly to find anyone who commits insurance fraud, both because of the danger and because it raises insurance rates for all of us,” said Attorney General Wilson.
The judge sentenced Grice to five years in prison on each charge and fined her $5,000. Her sentence was suspended to three years of probation and a $1,000 fine.
Massey was also sentenced to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine. Her sentence was suspended to 2 ½ years of probation and a $1,000 fine.