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Couple accused of burning down home for insurance money

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ZEBULON — A Franklin County husband and wife have been arrested on charges that they intentionally set fire to their Zebulon house to get money from their insurance company.

John Michael Crabtree and Stacey Lynn Crabtree are facing felony fraud charges, according to officials.

The Franklin County Sheriff's Office said it began investigating after the couple's home, 125 Sylvan Way, caught fire May 26.

Pilot Fire Department Chief Brandon Rice said it took 25 minutes to put out the fire and that a pet had to be rescued from the home. The Bunn and Hopkins fire departments assisted.

No injuries were reported, and the damage was contained to the outside of the first story and a portion of the second story, Rice said.

The two-story, four-bedroom home was valued at $148,000, according to county tax records.

The N.C. Department of Insurance Criminal Investigations Division, which assisted the investigation, said the homeowners' vehicle caught fire first, and the blaze spread to the home.

The couple had been occupying the house at the time of the fire and had personal belongings in the house which were destroyed, officials said.

"We believe the evidence will show the fire was intentionally set," said Marty Sumner, senior deputy commissioner for the fraud control group of the Department of Insurance. "It was intentionally set to the car so that the car and house would catch fire."

Sumner said the damage to the house was extensive and the homeowners were displaced. They had been living in a hotel since the fire, he said.

Investigators took out a search warrant and examined the couple's phone records, Sumner said. Based on the evidence, investigators believe the couple started the fire to commit insurance fraud.

Both John and Stacey Crabtree were charged with fraudulent burning of a dwelling, felony conspiracy, three counts of insurance fraud and two counts obtaining property by false pretense. John Crabtree was served an outstanding warrant for a fraudulent check.

The Franklin County Sheriff's Office arrested the couple July 31.

Stacey Crabtree, 37, was given a $150,000 secured bond and John Crabtree, 44, was given a $150,300 secured bond.

Both have since posted their bonds and were released from custody. Their next court date is Aug. 20