ELYRIA, Ohio (WJW)-- Video obtained exclusively by FOX 8 News shows a local man pushing his SUV into the Black River as part of a scheme to defraud his insurance company.
The story began to unfold on Oct. 11, 2018. Elyria police and paramedics and rescue teams from surrounding cities rushed to the cliffs above the Black River, after receiving a report of an overturned SUV in the river. Not realizing there was no one inside a vehicle, the first responders mounted a dangerous rescue operation.
“These firefighters had to rappel down a 100 foot cliff, a very steep cliff with a lot of vegetation, a lot of rocks. I mean, it was not an easy rescue by any means,” said Elyria Police Cpt. Chris Costantino.
When police discovered the SUV was reported stolen, they decided to check surveillance cameras at a nearby restaurant and were astounded by they found. The video showed what turned out to be the owner of the vehicle driving along the river, pulling the SUV into an opening above the cliffs and then pushing it over the side.
Investigators said it was a scheme to collect on the insurance policy on the vehicle. The owner was shown on the video walking with a flashlight back to his apartment, where he later called police and the insurance company to report the SUV had been stolen.
Randall White, 53, was charged with insurance fraud, making false alarms and inducing panic. When confronted with the video evidence, White pleaded guilty and on Wednesday, he apologized before Judge Christopher Rothgery placed him on probation for three years.
“I mean, I’m sorry for what I’ve done, and like I’m trying to get my life back together 100 percent," White said.
As part of his punishment, White must also make restitution to all of the police and fire agencies in Lorain County that responded to what they thought was an emergency. Investigators said White might have gotten away with insurance fraud, if the crime had not been caught on camera. He must make a total of more than $10,000 in restitution.
“He put a lot of first responders in danger, in harm’s way by his actions, you know. Thank goodness that no first responders were injured as a result of that operation," Costantino said.