A 29-year-old Tacoma man who allegedly tried to scam $20,000 from an insurance company with a picture of a cat from the Internet has been charged with fraud and attempted theft.

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A 29-year-old Tacoma man who filed a $20,000 insurance claim for the death of a cat he claimed to have loved “like a son” has been charged with insurance fraud and attempted theft.

According to the charges filed last week in Pierce County, Yevgeniy Samsonov’s beloved cat never existed and photos he submitted to bolster his claim had been pulled from the Internet.

“We’ve handled some pretty unusual cases, but this is one of the stranger ones,” state Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler said in a news release.

According to court documents, Samsonov’s car was rear-ended in March 2009 while stopped at a traffic light in Tacoma. The other driver told her insurance company, Pemco, that her foot had slipped off the brake, according to Rich Roesler, a spokesman for Kreidler’s office.

Pemco paid Samsonov nearly $3,500 to settle his claim of having suffered soft-tissue damage and needing chiropractic treatment.

More than two years later, Samsonov was back, this time asking for additional money for the loss of a pet cat named Tom, who he said had died in the same accident.

The insurer sent Samsonov a check for $50 to compensate him for the cat, but Samsonov said Tom “had been like a son to him,” Roesler said

“Given the intense sentimental value of the cat, he wanted $20,000,” Roesler said.

Pemco agents asked Samsonov for photos of the cat and Samsonov submitted two he claimed to have taken himself, court documents allege.

However, a Pemco employee did a Google search and turned up the very images Samsonov submitted, court documents allege.

The two pictures actually turned out to be of different cats, and neither belonged to Samsonov, according to court documents. One of the photos is featured on the Wikipedia page dedicated to cats.

When Pemco refused to pay the $20,000 and revoked the original check for $50, Samsonov contacted the state insurance commissioner’s office, asking the agency to advocate for him, Roesler said.

That didn’t go as Samsonov had apparently hoped.

Christine Clarridge: 206-464-8983 or cclarridge@seattletimes.com.

Seattle Times news researcher David Turim contributed to this report.