Edmonds business owner pleads guilty to wire fraud in connection with Hwy 99 arson fire

The fire scene at CJN Miniatures in April 2018, courtesy South County Fire.

An Edmonds business owner pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court Monday to wire fraud related to the April 30, 2018, fire at her business, CJN Miniatures & More, located in the 23000 block of Highway 99 in Edmonds.

In the plea agreement, Connie L. Bigelow, 53, admitted she set fire to her business — a dollhouse, miniatures, collectibles and antiques shop — to collect insurance money as the store was struggling to make enough money to pay the rent. Bigelow moved her business, CJN Miniatures LLC, into the building at 23030 Highway 99, in Edmonds in September 2017. The store maintained an inventory of miniatures and collectables for sale, consigned items on behalf of other individuals, and rented out space to other vendors. Between October 2017 and April 2018, the business fell behind in rental payments and payments to consigners.

Bigelow carried an insurance policy with State Farm Fire and Casualty Company that covered up to $100,000 in loss of business personal property, as well as loss of income. The policy did not cover loss arising from arson.

Bigelow set the fire underneath three Thomas Kinkade paintings worth thousands of dollars. In May 2018, Bigelow initiated a claim to State Farm for the losses arising from the fire. On May 3, 2018, Bigelow communicated with the insurance agent via email as part of the wire fraud scheme. Bigelow made false statements to law enforcement, as well as representatives of State Farm as part of the scheme to defraud.

As part of the plea agreement, Bigelow agrees to make full restitution. Currently the restitution is over $195,000 but may grow as further losses are calculated in advance of sentencing.

Wire fraud is punishable by up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Judge Lasnik will determine the appropriate sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

Bigelow, 53, is scheduled for sentencing by U.S. District Judge Robert S. Lasnik on Dec. 17.

The case was investigated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives (ATF), along with the Snohomish County Fire Marshals’ Office.

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