en-Gauge Fire and Life Safety Blog

Fire Extinguisher Fraud News Roundup

Posted by Brendan McSheffrey on 7/30/13, 2:32 PM

After a conversation with a fire official about the problem fire extinguisher fraud, we decided to take a look for ourselves.  We were shocked by the sheer number of fraud stories surrounding fire extinguishers and their inspections that immediately popped up.  Con artists have been taking advantage of businesses all over the country by simply posing as city officials or fire inspectors and taking cash payments for false services rendered.  Here’s a sampling of some of the fire extinguisher fraud stories that we found particularly interesting

Fake Fire Inspector Frauds Several Businesses in Texas

Here we have a man walking into stores and restaurants, falsely identifying himself and taking cash from the unknowing employees.   

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 KXAN out of Austin Texas reports:

 

AUSTIN (KXAN) - Austin fire investigators have a warrant out for the arrest of a phony fire inspector who hit at least two Austin businesses in late February .

 

 

The felony theft warrant for Nicholas Angelo Carrion, 47, comes after a man allegedly scammed businesses out of hundreds of dollars by posing as a city fire inspector even though he wore no uniform and never showed a badge or other identification.

Newly released security video from Feb. 27 showed the man identified as Carrion turning up at the Ruby Thai Kitchen at the Barton Creek Square Mall saying he was a city fire inspector.

An affidavit said Austin fire investigators identified this man as the same one who hit up The Wholly Cow Burgers restaurant on Congress Avenue the same day.

In both cases, he received hundreds of dollars in cash after persuading managers to let him inspect their fire extinguishing equipment.

He also took money from a restaurant in San Antonio, and after each visit, provided a hand-written receipt.

As it turns out, his stops in Texas were just a portion of a more elaborate operation.

“He's a traveling gypsy con man. It's very rehearsed,” Woolverton said.

Unfortunately, Carrion is on the run, and investigators don’t know where he’ll pop up next.  Many times fire extinguisher service details are not known by all employees, leaving them open to scams that walk in through their front doors.  

Phony Fire Extinguisher Inspection Services Found in Florida

This time, a man in Florida was charged with Organized Fraud, after posing as fire inspector and charging several business owners $80 for his bogus “visual fire extinguisher inspection services.”    

CBS correspondent from Tampa, Florida reports:

Spring Hill, FL--Hernando County deputies arrested a man who they say has been posing as a "fire extinguisher inspector", and fraudulently charging people for his services.

According to reports, 50-year-old Allen Rhyndress offered his visual fire extinguisher inspection services to at least four businesses over the last few weeks, charging his "customers" $80 for each job.

On three occasions, Rhyndress reportedly just walked into the businesses, offered and performed his services, collected the money and then provided a hand-written receipt.  

His fourth and final job came from one of his previously scammed business owners, who asked Rhyndress to inspect an extinguisher at another one of her business' locations.

However, like all stupid criminals, he got caught after getting greedy.   

Rhyndress' scam came to an end when one of the victims contacted her regular fire inspector, and found out that Rhyndress was not employed by him, reports say.

Once she alerted law enforcement, detectives interviewed Rhyndress and learned of the other businesses he conned.

In the interviews, Rhyndress reportedly told detectives he was doing this to earn money to assist his mother with her finances.

Officials arrested Rhyndress Monday evening and charged him with Organized Fraud, but they believe other businesses in Hernando and even Pasco Counties may have fallen victim to his scam.

Starting to see the theme here?  People need to be better educated on fire safety practices (or install enGauge electronic fire extinguisher monitoring to avoid the needs for 30 day inspections and the related potential for fraud).

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Watch this 3 minute video to learn how the enGauge Electronic Fire Extinguisher Monitoring system works and how it will let you avoid 30-day fire extinguisher inspections

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Six Oregon Businesses Swindled After Fire Inspector Scam

Yet another man posing as a fire inspector took advantage of 6 business in Portland after demanding cash payments for his fire extinguisher tag checking services.  

KGW Portland, OR reports:


 

PORTLAND -- A man has been posing as a fire inspector and collecting money from Portland businesses, and police have released surveillance photos and video to help identify him.

 

The man visited several businesses on January 15, pretending to check fire extinguisher tags and then asking for cash payment in return for the service, said Portland Police Sgt. Pete Simpson.

Tuesday afternoon investigators said the man hit about six businesses from Northwest 9th Avenue to Northwest 23rd Avenue, including the Laughing Planet restaurant in the Ecotrust Building.


 
 
 

Often times fire safety is the last of people’s concerns; until there is actually a fire.  It’s crucial to know proper protocol and stay up to code with your fire extinguishing devices.  


 
 

Bogus Inspector in Ohio Charges Businesses for Unnecessary Fire Extinguisher Replacement


This go around doesn't just involve fake inspectors doing counterfeit inspections, this crook took it to the next level and charged the victims for replacement devices.  While it’s unclear how many locations he hit, he tricked his “customers” into buying presumably unnecessary equipment replacements.


 

On 6/27/13 the suspect entered the Dunkin Donuts in Downtown Cincinnati and the Cold Stone Creamery on the Newport Levee and presented himself to the employees of the store, as being with the city fire prevention office and that he was there for an inspection. He then stated that the fire extinguishers needed to be replaced. Both stores paid him money for the replacements. The suspect is not with either city fire department.


These news stories are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to fraud surrounding fire extinguishers.  We will continue to bring you success stories, news reports about fraud, and general industry news regarding fire extinguishers.  Take a look back at some of our previous blog posts at to learn more about how enGauge helps keep people safer.

Topics: Fire Extinguisher Inspections, Fire Extinguisher Inspection, Uninspected Fire Extinguishers, Electronic Monitoring Fire Extinguisher, Fire Extinguisher Monitoring, 30 Day Fire Extinguisher Inspection, NFPA 10 Code Compliance