Man is acquitted in fraud case

March 15, 1997


Staff Writer

Washington County Circuit Court jurors have found a Hagerstown man not guilty of setting a fire in an attempt to defraud an insurance company.

Richard Lee Magaha, 25, accused after a blaze in his car last May, was acquitted on Thursday.

He had been free on an appeal bond since October when he was sentenced in Washington County District Court to two years in prison.

Judge Ralph France had found him guilty of malicious burning to defraud an insurance company.

Magaha, who was on probation for another arson when charged with the offense, didn't testify and called no witnesses during the trial.


Hagerstown firefighters, fire marshals and police testified that they responded to Magaha's apartment at 28 N. Locust St. around 3 a.m. on May 14.

Hagerstown firefighter Joseph Royce said that when he arrived, fire could be seen in Magaha's locked 1985 Dodge Charger, which was parked outside the apartment.

Hagerstown Fire Marshal John Hersh said Magaha told him he heard an explosion and saw a white flash just before the car started to burn.

The day after the fire, Magaha filed a claim with Progressive Insurance Co., Hersh said.

During the District Court trial last August, agent John Hogan said there was no liability clause in the fire policy, which he described as unusual.

No insurance was paid on the claim, Hogan said.

In November 1995, Magaha pleaded guilty in District Court to setting a fire at his then-apartment building at 352 S. Locust St.

He was given an 18-month suspended prison sentence for his plea to a charge of second-degree malicious burning, court records said.

Visiting Judge Edwin Collier placed Magaha on supervised probation for a year and fined him $100.

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