The son of noted attorney Phil Ganong died over the weekend in a downtown duplex fire, according to neighbors and local TV news reports.
A neighbor said she heard from a family member that Ganong's son, William, 35, died in the blaze. Local media also reported his death, however a coroner's release said the identity of a man who died is being withheld pending positive identification and notification of next of kin.
Phil Ganong, his wife Pamela, son William, and sister Susan Lee Stinson were indicted in 2017 by the Orange County District Attorney’s Office in a fraudulent billing scheme related to sober living homes they owned that prosecutors say bilked insurance companies out of millions of dollars. In 2017, Ganong denied the allegations.
A pretrial hearing in the case is scheduled for Wednesday, according to the District Attorney's Office.
The cause of the fire at 2445 Beech St. just after 12:30 a.m. Saturday is being looked into by Bakersfield Fire Department arson investigators, according to a Bakersfield Fire Department news release. County property records show the 3,500-square-feet home is owned by Ganong and it was a duplex valued at more than $500,000.
The blaze was the second fire at the property in eight months. A fire in September was determined to be accidental, said Bakersfield Fire Battalion Chief Casey Snow.
Neighbors gave conflicting reports about the home's use. One woman said it was a sober living facility until a couple years ago while another said she believed it was still an active recovery home for women.
Bakersfield Fire reports said five people were in the home when fire broke out and fire crews arrived to find the home fully engulfed in flames.
Phil Ganong is known locally for representing marijuana interests in efforts by the county to ban medicinal pot dispensaries.
The family also owned sober living homes in Orange County, Bakersfield, Los Angeles and San Diego between January 2008 and December 2016 through their business, William Mae Company, which operated as Compass Rose Recovery.
Prosecutors allege both residents and non-residents of the homes were registered as employees of businesses the Ganongs operated, and the Ganongs expanded their health insurance policy to cover more than 100 employees. They then used another company to overbill insurance companies for the collection and testing of urine, which allegedly occurred frequently or on a daily basis.
The District Attorney’s Office said the defendants collected as much as $15 million from the scheme.
Ganong and his wife face more than 47 years in state prison for 13 counts of insurance fraud and 26 counts of money laundering.
His son, William, could face more than 36 years in prison on 13 counts of insurance fraud.
The Ganongs have a history of family tragedy. In 1998, Ganong's 11-year-old son accidentally shot his sister to death, according to archived reports in The Californian. The boy, Joseph, had retrieved a gun from a desk in a guest house where the victim, 12-year-old Hannah, stayed with her 15-year-old sister, Emily. Joseph thought the gun wasn't loaded, but it contained six bullets, The Californian reported.
Kern County District Attorney Ed Jagels declined to prosecute Ganong and his wife, saying the parents suffered too much and took reasonable steps to ensure gun safety.