09/09/16 2:45pm

THE CASE OF THE SPECULATIVE RUBE GOLDBERG-STYLE LONG DISTANCE HOME ARSON ATTEMPT Meanwhile, in Kerikeri: Gag orders surrounding a set of insurance fraud and blackmail investigations have recently expired, bringing to light details of New Zealand investigators’ suspicions that British expat Chris Robinson may have burned his own house down while out of town in 2013. Investigators of the fire, which destroyed Robinson’s multi-million-dollar home and Mercedes, found burn marks suggesting a flame accelerant, as well as records of a remote login to a home computer on the night of the fire. Traces of the software program used to access the home machine were found on Robinson’s travel laptop, though he deleted the program the morning after the blaze. The investigators eventually presented a proof of concept video in court demonstrating one theoretically possible method of starting a fire remotely: the investigators cued a printer to print, which pulled down a sheet of paper which was taped to a string, pulling a switch that caused a small heating element to set some matches on fire (enough to ignite the accelerant that appeared to have been splashed around the house). The case fell apart because investigators didn’t produce evidence of a sent print command; though the insurance company still won’t pay out for the house, Robinson was acquitted. He did, however, lose an associated court case over an attempt to blackmail the insurance company; during sentencing, the judge took into consideration a previous UK conviction for posing as an Irish priest to solicit-slash-extort donations to a nonexistent charity. [Stuff via The Independent]

07/24/07 10:22pm

Burned Shell of 7802 Links Crossing Lane in SpringFor months, the giant, burned-out shell of a home has been sitting on an acre lot at the corner of Links Crossing Lane and Augusta Pines Parkway in Spring, less than half a mile from the baby Bermuda grass fairways of the Augusta Pines Golf Course and its 100,000-sf “southern style” clubhouse. But now Harris County Fire Marshal investigators are reporting that the fire that destroyed the 7000-sf McMansion in February was a poorly concealed arson. While owner Michael Macomber was vacationing in the Bahamas, a man named Adnan Aquil filled the home with 25 five-gallon cans of gasoline he had purchased over several days from Wal-Mart and arranged them so they would ignite spectacularly.

According to investigators, Macomber has now confessed that he paid Aquil $10,000 for his handiwork, before filing a $1.2 million insurance claim.

What made Macomber do it? Was he tired of being overextended on an overmortgaged, overpriced, and oversized home in an overmarketed subdivision in Northwest Houston?

“He was holding on to everything,” [Harris County Senior Arson Investigator Dustin] Deutsch said. “His credit score was getting impacted, payments were getting impacted. The county probably didn’t appreciate him bouncing his tax check. . . .”

Of course there’s more to the story:

“After further scrutiny of the closing paperwork, investigators determined that the residence’s value was grossly overvalued by a local real estate appraiser,” Harris County Arson Investigations officials stated in a media address. “It was also learned that Macomber grossly inflated his stated income to the mortgage company. This embellishment included forged financial documents and other misleading credentials.”

In return for paying an inflated price for the Augusta Pines McMansion in March 2006, Macomber allegedly received a $171,000 kickback from the seller. In all, seven people, including a neighbor couple, have been charged in fraud related to this home. According to KHOU, every house on the street has been foreclosed on.

Yes, it’s a short street.

Photo of 7802 Links Crossing Ln.: KHOU