Authorities: Diboll man filed fraudulent $26K insurance claim on staged wreck

Thomas Johns (Source: Angelina County Jail)
Thomas Johns (Source: Angelina County Jail)
Paul Rhoden (Source: Angelina County Jail)
Paul Rhoden (Source: Angelina County Jail)

LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - Authorities charged a 41-year-old Diboll man with felony insurance fraud after he allegedly crashed his 2003 Chevrolet Corvette into a 2002 Mercury Sable twice before filing a bogus accident report and cashing in a $26K insurance claim.

Thomas Ray Johns Jr. was booked into the Angelina County Jail on Wednesday. He was released later that day after he posted a $10,000 bail.

According to the arrest affidavit, Johns and co-conspirator, Paul Randall Rhoden drove their vehicles out on FM 1818 about 10 miles south of Huntington on July 5, 2009. Johns owned the burgundy Corvette, and Rhoden owned the gray Sable.

On April 10, an FBI agent interviewed Rhoden. According to the affidavit, Rhoden said he pulled his Sable onto the shoulder of FM 1818, and when Johns arrived, he told Rhoden that he couldn't crash the two cars together.

At that point, Rhoden climbed into the Corvette and intentionally crashed it into the Sable twice. Rhoden then called 911 to call in the so-called accident. Rhoden allegedly admitted lying to the responding Texas Department of Public Safety trooper and said "their sole intent was to file a fraudulent insurance claim."

Then, on April 22, the FBI agent interviewed Johns about the accident he and Rhoden allegedly staged. Johns allegedly told the FBI agent that the crash was a staged event and gave an account of the event that matched what Rhoden had give 12 days earlier.

"The defendant stated that he knew they were crashing the vehicles to file a fraudulent insurance claim, and that he received the check from Philadelphia Indemnity and deposited it in his account," the affidavit stated.

The affidavit stated that Johns received an insurance claim check in the amount of $26,414. In turn, Rhoden received a check for $3,911.

During the interview with Johns, the FBI agent brought three other highly suspicious insurance claims he had filed on vehicles he owned and told him there was a high possibility that additional insurance fraud charges would be filed against him in the future.

"The defendant put his head in his hands, and when asked if he wished to tell us about those vehicles, he said he does, but was afraid of going to prison," the affidavit stated.

Johns then allegedly told authorities that he would get back in touch with them about the other possible charges after he obtained the services of an attorney. As of June 10, he still had gotten back in touch with authorities, according to the affidavit.

Rhoden is currently serving a 77-month federal prison sentence. He was convicted on Jan. 16, 2013 for felony possession of a firearm.

Insurance agent Julie Davis is not familiar with this case but says criminal cases like this one are becoming more common.

"The incidents of people trying to perpetrate fraud have gone up a little bit, but because insurance companies have gotten so aggressive about insurance claims, we're doing everything we can to litigate the loss," said Davis.

Davis said that when fraudulent claims like this happen, everyone's rates go up, due to the premiums on a policy.

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