Data from pacemaker used to arrest man for arson, insurance fraud

The device provided key evidence which stopped a man allegedly getting away with fraud after burning down his house.
Written by Charlie Osborne, Contributing Writer

A man has been charged for arson and fraud after law enforcement used data gleaned from his pacemaker to uncover an alleged plot to cheat his insurance company.

Last week, local media WLWT reported that Ross Compton, from Middletown, Ohio, lost his home last September due to a fire which caused roughly $400,000 in damages.

Suspicions were aroused when Compton's statements did not seem to match up with how the blaze begun, especially after he told a 911 dispatcher that after spotting the fire, he packed a number of suitcases and threw them out of his bedroom window after breaking the glass with a walking stick.

Compton has medical conditions which include an artificial heart linked to an external pump. According to court documents, a cardiologist said that "it is highly improbable Mr. Compton would have been able to collect, pack and remove the number of items from the house, exit his bedroom window and carry numerous large and heavy items to the front of his residence during the short period of time he has indicated due to his medical conditions."

VIDEO: Police used pacemaker data to arrest man for arson and fraud

After US law enforcement caught wind of this peculiar element to the story, police were able to secure a search warrant and collect the pacemaker's electronic records to scrutinize his heart rate, the demand on the pacemaker and heart rhythms prior to and at the time of the incident.

WLWT reports that one of the investigators, Lt. Jimmy Cunningham, said the pacemaker ended up being a "key piece of evidence" and an excellent investigative tool which revealed Compton's story did not match how his heart was operating at the time.

As shadows were cast on his story, the 59-year-old was charged with aggravated arson and insurance fraud.

Compton, however, called the investigation into his alleged arson "utterly insane," despite gasoline also being found on Compton's clothes and firefighters discovering "multiple points of origin of the fire" from outside the building.

Middletown's law enforcement says this is the first time data from an embedded medical device has been used to charge someone, which raises interesting questions concerning the Fifth Amendment. While the law says that people cannot be forced into incriminating themselves, it was not written with these medical devices in mind -- and so there is the question of whether the pacemaker, which was part of Compton and necessary for life, is in theory protected by the law or open season for police forces.

Whether or not investigators should have obtained a warrant to use this information, Compton will be arraigned next month.

This isn't the first time a device has snitched on its user. Back in 2015, an alleged hit-and-run driver left the scene of an accident after crashing into two vehicles. 57-year-old Cathy Bernstein's Ford was equipped with an automatic 999 caller if impacts were registered, leading to her arrest.

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