Local man arrested for alleged false insurance claim, reporting truck stolen after losing it while drunk

ST. GEORGE — A local man is in jail for allegedly filing a false insurance claim after losing his truck while intoxicated.

Joseph Michael Harrington, 41, of Washington City, faces one second-degree felony count of filing a false or fraudulent insurance claim, along with two misdemeanor charges for providing a written false statement and for reporting a fraudulent emergency to police, fire or medical, according to the probable cause statement filed in support of the arrest.

The incident began on Oct. 5 when St. George Police officers were dispatched to one of the lookouts on Red Hills Parkway near 900 East shortly after 1 a.m. on a report of a carjacking involving a Toyota Tundra.

At the time of the incident, the man told police he had been sitting in his pickup when an unknown person hit him over the head with a rock before taking his vehicle. He provided vague details of the incident in the report later filed with police.

Harrington told officers he was knocked unconscious during the alleged assault, and when he came to about three hours later, he found that his truck was missing. He was subsequently transported to Dixie Regional Medical Center to be treated for minor injuries to his head and lower extremities.

Officers would later learn from medical personnel that the man suffered no fractures to his head nor did he have a concussion, making them suspicious of the man’s claim that he was unconscious for several hours.

Joseph Michael Harrington, 41, of Washington City, booking photo taken in Washington County, Oct. 26, 2019 | Photo courtesy of the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, St. George News

Through the course of the investigation, detectives learned that prior to leaving the house on the night of the incident, the man had been arguing with his fiance and appeared to be intoxicated when the officers took the report. Police say he admitted to drinking earlier in the evening.

Additionally, officers were notified by the suspect’s insurance company that a claim was filed in connection with the Toyota that was reportedly stolen.

When the suspect was interviewed “at length” about the incident, Harrington confirmed that he filed the claim with his insurance company and estimated the value of the lost truck to be between $5,000-$7,000.

The suspect was questioned further about his claim of being unconscious for more than three hours, which is when Harrington “eventually admitted that he had not been assaulted, and his vehicle was not stolen,” the report said.

Instead, Harrington told police he had been drinking and parked his vehicle “somewhere” before leaving on foot. And, as he attempted to climb a hill, was injured before blacking out.

According to the report, when Harrington came to, he told police he couldn’t remember where he had parked his truck and said he called dispatch to report that he had been carjacked and assaulted “even though the incident he had reported had not happened,” the officer wrote.

When police contacted the insurance company, they were told that Harrington provided both an oral and written statement of the events that allegedly took place that night, telling the company the same story he originally told police when he filed his claim.

As a result, the insurance company paid more than $355 for Harrington’s rental car and was preparing a check for more than $7,100 to cover the loss of the vehicle.

Later, Harrington told the insurance company that the truck had been recovered after a friend told him where it was, at which point the check was not issued to him.

He was arrested Saturday and booked into Purgatory Correctional Facility. He has since been released and the charges were filed Monday.

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2019, all rights reserved.

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