LEHIGH ACRES, Fla. - WINK News has learned more about a local connection to a major insurance fraud ring.
14 people are under arrest in what's called "Operation Flames and Floods." The suspects are accused of having a hand in deliberately flooding homes or setting them on fire to collect insurance money.
The now-empty house at 4002 East 10th Street was flooded and torn apart in December 2010.
The state attorney's office says the damage, totaling more than $100,000, was done on purpose.
It was all part of a complex insurance fraud plot led by Jorge Espinosa and his wife, Carolina Espinosa. According to the state attorney's office, the pair owned a Miami-based company, Nationwide Adjusters, LLC. The Espinosas are accused of using their position to bilk insurance companies out of $7.6 million.
Jorge Espinosa allegedly used "recruiters" to find homeowners willing to stage floods or fires in their homes. Espinosa would help the homeowners file an insurance claim and collect the cash.
According to the arrest warrant, the Lehigh Acres home was sold for $10,000 to a company owned by the cousin of one of Espinosa's right-hand men.
From there, Ernesto O'Reilly is accused of making a fake drivers license and credit cards, creating a "phantom tenant" to rent the home.
The phantom tenant would eventually take the fall for ripping out floors, cabinets and fixtures, and eventually flooding the home.