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San Joaquin County
District Attorney's Office
TORI VERBER SALAZAR
District Attorney

Scott A. Fichtner
Assistant District Attorney

Kristine M. Reed
Assistant District Attorney

David J. Derksen
Chief Investigator

OFFICE OF THE DISTRICT ATTORNEY

222 E. Weber Ave., Room 202, Stockton, CA
P. O. Box 990, Stockton, CA 95201

T (209) 468-2400 | F (209) 465-0371

News from the Office of District Attorney Tori Verber Salazar

For Immediate Release


February 04, 2020

CONTACT: Angela Hayes, PIO, Deputy District Attorney
T (209) 468-2400  | E angela.hayes@sjcda.org

Cooking Chicken Cooks Crooks

Stockton - Today, District Attorney Tori Verber Salazar announced that on Monday February 3, 2020, Tyler Chen, 49, his wife, Kim Chen, 47, and friend, Ha Nguyen, 64, were sentenced by the Honorable Lauren Thomasson for the following charges:

  • Nguyen, Chen, and ChenTYLER CHEN  pleaded guilty to Count 1: Penal Code §451(B) - Arson Inhabited Structure ("strike") + Penal Code §186.11(A)(2) -Aggravated White Collar Crime Enhancement 
    Count 2: Penal Code § 451(D) - Arson: Property, 
    Count 3: Penal Code § 451(B)  - Arson: Inhabited Structure/Property("strike")
    Count 4: Penal Code §550 (A)(1) - Insurance Fraud 
    Total: 13 years state prison
  • KIM CHEN pleaded guilty to Count 6: Penal Code §550 (A)(1) - Insurance Fraud  
    Total: 1 year county jail
  • HA NGUYEN pleaded guilty to Count 1: Penal Code §451(B) - Arson Inhabited Structure ("strike") + Penal Code §186.11(A)(2) -Aggravated White Collar Crime Enhancement 
    Count 4: Penal Code §550 (A)(1) - Insurance Fraud 
    Total: 8 years state prison 

The defendants were ordered to pay restitution, jointly/severally liable in the amount of $582,506.36

 "When criminals perpetrate fraud upon insurance companies, they perpetrate fraud upon us all," said District Attorney Tori Verber Salazar.  "When an insurance company pays out a claim we, in actuality, are paying through higher premiums and deductibles. This office will prosecute those whose greed harms the entire community to the fullest extent of the law."

According to court records, On October 27, 2013, Tony Astone, a Public Adjuster, met with Ha Nguyen (aka Henry Ng) to obtain keys to a warehouse related to an insurance claim.  Mr. Astone had previously represented Mr. Nguyen and Tyler Chen on insurance claims.  During this meeting, Mr. Nguyen presented Mr. Astone with a ledger that contained addresses and dates, which Mr. Astone recognized as addresses and dates of insurance claims for which he assisted Mr. Nguyen and Mr. Chen.  Mr. Nguyen informed Mr. Astone that the listed properties were purposely set on fire in order to file insurance claims. 

In January 2014, the department received a tip about a connection in a string of home, business and warehouse fires that occurred between December 2011 and September 2013. The tipster gave the exact address of where the next house fire would occur.

On June 22, 2014, Stockton Fire Department responded to a residential fire at 5144 Pier Drive in Stockton and determined that the fire appeared to be caused by a frying chicken being left unattended on a stove. California Department of Insurance investigators conducted an investigation of previous claims that directly or indirectly involved Mr. Nguyen and Mr. Chen and discovered a pattern of insurance claims that involved homes catching fire as a result of leaving cooking chicken unattended on the stove. 

Additionally, there were a number of insurance claims related to Ha Nguyen and Tyler Chen that involved water damage to property located in warehouse structures as a result of fires. Over $4 million dollars in insurance claims were paid out, and properties damaged for insurance purposes expanded over three counties including San Joaquin, Santa Clara, and Fresno.

Below is a summary of the claims filed by the defendants originating in San Joaquin County:

Farmers Claim 05/01/2013

On May 1, 2013, Tyler Chen set fire to his sister-in-law's home in Stockton, California by leaving frying chicken unattended and the oil caught fire.  Prior to the fire, Mr. Nguyen advised Mr. Chen to put a sofa, couch, and washer and dryer that they found on the side of the road into the home.  Mr. Nguyen drove Mr. Chen to the home to light the fire, then drove Mr. Chen away from the home once the fire was started.  Farmers Insurance paid out $505,760.00 in insurance claims.

US Liability Company Claim 06/30/2013

On June 30, 2013, a warehouse in Stockton, California rented by another sister of Kim Chen caught fire. Her sister claimed $465,000.00 in damage to property, including the same expensive wallpaper claimed in Mr. Nguyen's claim on April 25, 2013 from a rental space in San Jose. Ms. Chen's sister subsequently withdrew her claim and the insurance company did not pay her anything.   

Farmers Claim 06/22/2014

On June 22, 2014, Allen Chen's property at 5144 Pier Drive, Stockton, California caught fire. Kim Chen gave a statement to Farmers Insurance that she left the property and inadvertently left the chicken cooking on the stove.  The fire department determined the cause of the fire was due to leaving the burner on unattended. Tyler Chen previously transferred the title of this property to his son, Allen Chen.

District Attorney Verber Salazar would like to thank Deputy District Attorney Marjorie Burrise, the California Department of Insurance, and all of the law enforcement agencies and Arson investigators of San Joaquin, Fresno and Santa Clara Counties.  This is an excellent example of the benefit collaborative investigations can provide to their respective communities.