District Attorney Joyce Dudley announced Tuesday that 58-year-old Ventura resident Dean Basler pleaded guilty to charges that he fooled Santa Barbara residents in high fire risk areas into paying him $250,000 worth of premiums for fake homeowners insurance. Basler pleaded guilty to two counts of felony embezzlement and will be sentenced to 240 days in jail. He’ll also be ordered to pay back his victims and serve four years of probation.
Basler would pocket the premium payments before issuing fake insurance certificates to his customers, Dudley said. The fraud was uncovered when one of Basler’s customers sought additional coverage on her home and learned she had no insurance. “It was fortunate there were no wildfires in Santa Barbara County at the time Basler was running his scam,” Dudley said. “Otherwise, the victims in this case would have faced complete financial devastation.”
Basler is not the first to take advantage of Santa Barbara residents in high fire risk areas. In January, Penny Estes was sentenced to 11 years, 8 months in prison for scamming several homeowners out of millions of dollars under the guise of eco-friendly and fire-resistant construction following the Tea and Jesusita fires.