Alabama Woman Charged in Horse Insurance Fraud Case

An Alabama woman who claimed her Belgian Warmblood cross mare died in a barn fire now faces insurance fraud charges in connection with the horse's death.

Flomaton, Ala., Police Chief Mike Lambert said Brenda Gradia, 41, is accused of shooting the mare then setting her barn ablaze in an attempt to collect a $100,000 insurance claim for the horse and another $25,000 claim for the barn. She was charged on June 10 with second-degree arson, two counts of attempted theft by deception, and a single misdemeanor cruelty count in connection with the incident.

Flomaton firefighters discovered the dead horse after responding to the blaze on May 23. Lambert said he and Escambia County Animal Control Officer Renee Jones responded after firefighters reported there were other horses at the scene. Upon arrival Jones said the mare was found lying on her side surrounded by charred material.

"I thought Gradia would be devastated," Jones said, "but she was very calm. She told me the horse was insured."

Alabama State Veterinarian Anthony Frazier, DVM, performed a post-mortem at the scene, Jones said, during which he discovered that the mare had a gunshot wound to the heart. A bullet was found during the horse's full necropsy at Auburn University, she added.

During the investigation, Gradia admitted to fabricating a bill of sale inflating the mare's purchase price, Jones said. She also disclosed that she collected $30,000 in December on a horse that died from a snake bite. A horse was found buried on Gradia's property, Jones said, but it was the not the one insured.

"The horse she said died to collect on the insurance is alive and well," Jones said.

Gradia is charged with one felony count of theft by deception for that incident.

The felonies carry penalties of up to 20 years in prison, and the animal cruelty charge is punishable by up to one year in the county jail and a $1,000 fine.

Gradia remains free on $50,000 property bond. Her attorney, Ernest White, was unavailable for comment.

Four other horses remain in Gradia's care.

About the Author

Pat Raia

Pat Raia is a veteran journalist who enjoys covering equine welfare, industry, and news. In her spare time, she enjoys riding her Tennessee Walking Horse, Sonny.

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