The owner of the Tahoe, Michael Stephen Caldwell, 38, 1985 Longs Bend Pike, Surgoinsville, was arrested Thursday along with the man accused of taking and burning the Tahoe on Caldwell’s orders — Brandon Eugene Frost, 28, 103 Forest View Drive, Surgoinsville.
Both were charged Thursday with arson, insurance fraud, and filing a false report.
Caldwell reported the Tahoe stolen via telephone call to the Surgoinsville Police Department on Sept. 14, 2012 while Caldwell was at a car show in Gatlinburg.
He told police he’d received a call from an employee of a auto repair shop he owned at the time telling him his Tahoe was missing. Cell phone records later indicated that Caldwell received a call from Frost shortly before the Tahoe was reported stolen.
On Nov. 5, 2012 Caldwell received a check for $28,054 from Haulers Insurance for the missing Tahoe.
The Tahoe was later found burned out on Feb. 3, 2013 in a rural area off of Gravely Valley Road north of Rogersville on property that is adjacent to Frost’s family farm.
SPD Chief Jeff Hesoun said he began investigating Caldwell for insurance fraud based on tips and information he received from people in the community.
Hesoun discovered from the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) that Caldwell had made previous suspicious insurance claims. Most recently Caldwell had received $15,000 for a vehicle he claimed was struck by lightening.
During Hesoun’s investigation a witness came forward and claimed that Caldwell had offered that person $1,000 to “get rid” of his Tahoe for him while Caldwell was out of town. That witness reportedly declined the offer.
Based on information collected from other informants Frost was later developed as a suspect, and was interviewed by Hesoun. Initially Frost admitted he was offered $500 by Caldwell to “get rid” of his Tahoe, but he had declined.
Hesoun then subpoenaed cell phone records for Frost and Caldwell and allegedly found that the two had spoken to each other several times immediately before and after the Tahoe was reported stolen.
On Thursday Frost was interviewed again and allegedly admitted that Caldwell paid him $500 to get rid of his Tahoe, and that Caldwell provided Frost a key to the vehicle.
“In exchange for $500 Frost was to get rid of the vehicle while (Caldwell) was in Gatlinburg,” Hesoun stated in the arrest warrant. “Frost took the vehicle while it was parked, and drove it to a remote area and burned the vehicle. Frost stated he then called Caldwell and told him he burned the Vehicle so Caldwell could report the vehicle stolen and collect the insurance money.”
Upon being confronted with Frost’s statement Thursday Caldwell allegedly admitted to the charges.
Caldwell was released form the Hawkins County Jail on $5,000 bond. Frost was released on $7,500 bond.
Both are scheduled for arraignment Wednesday in Hawkins County Sessions Court.