A 57-year-old North Philadelphia pastor has been hit with a slew of charges after he admitted to filing an insurance claim for his car that he destroyed in a fire a day earlier, the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office said.
Teofilo Santiago, a Pentecostal church pastor, has been charged with arson, insurance fraud, attempted theft by deception, conspiracy and causing or risking a catastrophe.
Around 11:30 p.m., March 20, emergency officials found a 2004 Nissan Quest up in flames on the 2700 block of Emerald Street. Police notified Santiago who said his car had been parked in front of his home on the 1800 block of N. 6th Street and he didn't know it was missing.
The next day, Santiago called Nationwide Insurance and reported his vehicle had been stolen and recovered by police destroyed. He had reported his Nissan was in good mechanical condition with no prior damage, according to the DA's office.
The Fire Marshal's Office examined the vehicle and found the fire started in the passenger's compartment when an open flame was applied to the combustible material, according to a release from the DA. It was deemed an arson.
A forensic examination showed no forceful entry. It was also found the correct key and transponder code was used to operate the vehicle.
The insurance company found that Santiago's car was valued at $7,547. The fire's damage to the vehicle exceeded the value resulting in a total loss. At the time of the fire, Santiago owed $4,700 to his lien holder.
In April, Nationwide Insurance Company investigators contacted the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office after they received a suspected fraudulent vehicle theft claim from Santiago. On April 15, an investigator from the insurance company met with Santiago on the alleged vehicle theft where Santiago maintained his Nissan was in perfect condition when it was allegedly stolen the month before.
The DA's office said Santiago was shown the result of the forensics examination and he withdrew his stolen claim. He then indicated his car was in poor condition and needed many repairs. He admitted he conspired with another individual to destroy his car, report it as stolen and collect the insurance settlement.
Santiago was arrested this morning and is being processed by Philadelphia Police.