3 April 2005 – LAWFUEL – The Law News Network – Marcos Daniel Jiménez, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida; Julie Torres, Special Agent in Charge, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; Ken Mascara, Sheriff, St. Lucie County; and Delsa Busch, Chief, West Palm Beach Police Department, announced today the unsealing of an Indictment charging defendant, Benjamin Harris, with nine (9) counts of arson on several businesses located in St. Lucie County and one (1) in Palm Beach County, from May 5, 2003 through January 8, 2005, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 844(i). The sealed Indictment was returned on March 24, 2005, by a federal grand jury sitting in Fort Pierce, Florida, and was unsealed this morning, when Harris made his initial appearance in federal court before United States Magistrate Judge Frank J. Lynch, Jr., in Fort Pierce, Florida.
Count 1 charges Harris with destroying a Palm Beach County business, namely, Club Chill, at 700 Datura Street, in West Palm Beach, Florida, on May 5, 2003. Counts 2 through 9 charge Harris with destroying by means of fire several Fort Pierce businesses, from June 29, 2003, to January 8, 2005. Count 2 charges Harris with destroying by means of fire Tropical RV Sales, at 515 Palm Avenue. Count 3 charges Harris with destroying by means of fire Yun’s Produce, at 3875 South Federal Highway. Counts 4, 8, and 9 charge Harris with destroying by means of fire Camper’s Connection, 3500 South Federal Highway, on November 20, 2003, December 30, 2004, and January 8, 2005, respectively. Counts 5 and 6 charge Harris with destroying by means of fire Billy Tibbs, Inc., d/b/a Tibbs Trucking, at 350 Dickson Drive, on December 2, 2003 and February 3, 2004, respectively. Count 7 charges Harris with destroying by means of fire Tony’s Auto Repair and Heavy Trucking, Inc., and Five Star Auto Body, at 3385 South Federal Highway.
“Arson is a very dangerous crime, which must be aggressively prosecuted,” said Mr. Jiménez. “Arson ravages businesses and communities, and places the lives of innocent people in danger.”
“Serial arsonists are a threat to America,” said Ms. Torres. “These fires affect firefighters, insurance companies, and ultimately the American public. These are not victimless crimes and as such, will be treated seriously. This will be vigorously pursued by ATF and our investigative partners.”
If convicted, Harris faces a statutory minimum term of imprisonment of five (5) years and a maximum statutory term of imprisonment of twenty (20) years, in addition to a fine of up to $250,000, for each count.
Mr. Jiménez commended the investigative efforts of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, the St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Office, the Fort Pierce Police Department, the St. Lucie County Fire Department, the State Fire Marshal’s Office, and the West Palm Beach Police Department. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Robert H. Waters, Jr.
A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida at www.usdoj.gov/usao/fls . Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at www.flsd.uscourts.gov or on .