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Arson, fraud charged in April fire

Arson and insurance fraud have been charged to the resident of a home that burned in April.

The sheriff’s office reported that Gebrial Jermaine Shipman, 37, was arrested Wednesday for insurance fraud, attempting to obtain property by false pretenses, and fraudulently burning a building. He was held under a $10,000 bond.

Shipman was living in a rental home at 166 Johnny George Lane when the home burned April 12, according to the sheriff’s office. The fire marshal’s office and sheriff’s detectives conducted a joint investigation of the fire.

Gebriel Jermaine Shipman

Thomas Baldwin of Whiteville, Shipman’s uncle, owned the home, and was allowing Shipman to live there, according to the report. Shipman told investigators he arrived home around 6:30 a.m. to discover the house was on fire.

Inconsistencies in Shipman’s account of the fire caused investigators to become suspicious, including when Shipman denied having a renter’s insurance policy. Further investigation revealed he had purchased a renter’s policy in March.  He contacted the insurance carrier the same day as the fire to make a claim, according to the sheriff’s office.

Officials also discovered that the home was in danger of foreclosure. He was responsible for making mortgage payments to the lender as part of his rental agreement, investigators said, and Baldwin was unaware that the mortgage was behind.

On March 7, a mortgage company employee met with Shipman, and the home was reported to be “fully furnished” although after the fire, investigators found minimal personal property inside. Further investigation determined that Shipman had removed many of his belongings prior to the fire.

Investigators said Shipman set fire to the home using window treatments, furniture and other materials on April 11, then called 911 when he returned the next morning.

Shipman was taken into custody without incident at Covey Run Apartments Wednesday.

Sheriff Lewis Hatcher thanked the fire marshal’s office for its cooperation.

“I would like to personally thank the Columbus County Fire Marshal’s Office, especially our Deputy Fire Marshal for assisting with this case. Together, we spent many hours investigating this fire,” Hatcher said.



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