The search for Big Daddy: barbecue case leads to insurance fraud charges

In the summer of 2011, a Renton man named Cassk Thomas, Jr. filed a claim with his insurer, saying that someone had stolen his his 26-foot, 8,500-pound, two-tank, three-grill barbecue smoker, dubbed "Big Daddy."

The barbecue had been stored behind a locked fence, he told police. Two screws on a hinge had been removed. The smoker, as well as the double-tandem-axle trailer it was mounted on, was gone. Thomas provided his insurance adjuster with an invoice from a Spokane company, totalling $32,343, for the trailer and smoker.

Thomas' insurer, American Family Insurance, paid Thomas $30,474 for the lost barbecue, as well as $24,668 for lost income while he sought a replacement barbecue.

Upon investigation, it turned out that the trailer was actually purchased from a company in Texas for less than a third of what Thomas claimed. A former business partner said it cost $9,470, and she provided paperwork showing that.

The company Thomas had named as the manufacturer in Spokane apparently does not exist. It's not listed with the state departments of licensing or revenue, not on the Internet, the business address is a residence and, in repeated attempts, no one answered the phone there. A company official named by Thomas turned out to be an old roomate of his.

Thomas has been charged in King County Superior Court with 1st degree theft and insurance fraud, both of which are felonies.

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