A Minnesota man has pleaded guilty to wire fraud after he set up a hoax in which he claimed people had spray-painted left-wing messages on his garage, including “Biden 2020,” an anarchy symbol, and “BLM,” and set fire to several vehicles, according to a press release from the U.S. Department of Justice. It’s not illegal to spray-paint your own property, but the man received about $US61,000 ($84,680) from his insurance company and $US17,000 ($23,599) from a GoFundMe fundraiser, which is a big no-no.
It all started on September 23, 2020, when 30-year-old Denis Molla made a false report to police that his home had been vandalised. Molla told police he saw three unknown men outside his home and heard an explosion. Molla also told police he came outside to find “BLM” and other messages spray-painted on his garage door, and his camper had been set on fire, apparently because he had a Trump 2020 flag affixed to it.
The bullshit story was picked up by outlets like Fox News, where host Laura Ingraham spoke with far-right influencer Ben Shapiro about the incident.
“There’s a message being sent, Ben, by the far-left. And I think people are beginning to see that arsonist behaviour, looting, even murder, none of it’s off the table,” Ingraham said in a rather hilarious escalation during the Fox News segment.
The story was covered extensively by local news as well, with Denis Molla’s wife, Deana Molla, appearing at his side during interviews, asking why someone would target them for their political beliefs.
“These people knew that we had children,” Deana Molla told KARE 11 as footage played of the fire-damaged playground equipment in their yard. “And they still thought it was ok to do this.”
Deana Molla was not named in the initial indictment and it’s not clear what she knew about her husband’s scheme.
It all could have ended right there, with a nationally-recognised news story about left-wing craziness and the intolerance of political differences. But apparently Denis Molla had a different motive for the hoax. Molla submitted insurance claims for his garage, camper, trucks, and his house totaling roughly $US300,000 ($416,460). Amazingly, Molla had the audacity to question his insurance company’s denial of some of those claims, despite their fraudulent nature.
“When Molla’s insurance company denied some of those claims, Molla submitted a written complaint to the insurance company claiming that it was defrauding him and threatened to report the company to the Department of Commerce and to the Attorney General,” the DOJ said in a statement.
Molla also pocketed $US17,135.94 ($23,788) from a GoFundMe campaign called “Patriots For the Mollas” where he documented his property losses and “thanked the numerous donors,” in the comments, according to the indictment filed by the Department of Justice. Molla also reiterated his threats to the insurance company in those GoFundMe comments, according to the DOJ.
There were plenty of people who found the whole thing suspicious from the outset. For starters, anyone spray-painting an anarchy symbol is unlikely to be a supporter of Biden, one of the most centrist Democrats around. And even people affiliated with BLM, which stands for “Black Lives Matter,” aren’t the biggest Biden fans around.
But there were other things that sceptics picked up on, such as the claim early on that “one of the family’s surveillance cameras was blocked just before the explosion,” according to a story by WCCO in Minnesota.
Molla’s story was also a little too perfect as a ploy for sympathy, as that same story from CBS said, “the family was also able to save four puppies from the smoke-filled garage.” Puppies! Saved from a burning garage! Why not say you saved Grandma and apple pie as well, Mr. True Blooded American?
Molla faces up to 20 years in prison and a maximum fine of $US250,000 ($347,050) and will be sentenced at a later date. You can click through the slideshow for more photos of the hoax that were shown on various newscasts around the country.
The supposed vandalism
The Molla family gave this photo to news outlets like WCCO in Minnesota to show the damage that had been done to their property.
After the flames went out
“We live in the greatest country in the world and the greatest thing about America is we have the right to say what we want to say and not be attacked for it, and that’s totally been violated,” Deana Molla told Minnesota’s KMSP TV station.
The Trump flag
Deana Molla gave this photo to local news stations to show they were proud Trump supporters.
The vehicles on fire
Minnesota’s CBS TV affiliate WCCO broadcast this image as evidence that the Molla family had been targeted by left-wing extremists.
One happy Trump-loving family
The Molla family also gave this photo to news outlets, showing that they supported Trump in 2020.
Think of the children
KARE 11 in Minnesota captured video of the fire damaged backyard, including the childrens’ playset, for maximum emotional impact.
“My son’s bedroom, his window is facing the garage. My son smelled like smoke this morning when I was putting him down to sleep after the whole thing, he smelled like smoke, so it just blows my mind that someone would stoop this low,” Deana Molla told KSTP.
The WCCO TV news segment on the vandalism
Local CBS affiliate WCCO ran this segment, available on YouTube, about the supposed vandalism.
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