In 1996, a fire was started at a photo processing plant owned by Humberto Correia. Firefighters extinguished the fire and determined that the fire was set by Correia, even though the insurance agency’s investigation showed that there was no evidence that the fire was intentional. Correia was federally charged with arson, mail fraud, and using arson to commit a felony.
He was convicted on the basis of financial troubles before the fire, and reports that he turned off the building’s fire alarm before the fire was started. The prosecution stated that Correia’s motive for setting the fire was to claim the $280,000 from his insurance agency in order to pay off the mortgages on his home and the business.
Before sentencing, a US District judge ordered a new trial on the grounds that Correia’s lawyers had provided an inadequate defense. They did not bring in the insurance investigator that recorded there was no evidence of arson or an independent arson expert, nor did they assert that the building had no fire alarm system. The defense also failed to object to the prosecution’s claim about Correia’s debts or show records of his financials in defense. In 2004, Correia received a new trial and was acquitted.