Arson Case Briefs
provided by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms
for more information on this Brief, contact:
ATF, Arson and Explosive Programs Division - (202) 927-7930
Multiple locations (business and residential) owned by Gary L. DeTemple
Between September 1988 and April 1992
A. IN: 63490 93 5522 W
B. CASE AGENT: Harold C. Perlick
C. FIELD DIVISION/OFFICE: Louisville/Wheeling
D. PHONE: 304-232-4170
Lisa Grimes Johnston
Robert H. McWilliams
Northern Judicial District of West Virginia
F. SYNOPSIS: This investigation involved four fires and related offenses
that occurred between September 1988 and April 1992. The investigation revealed
a scheme in which Gary L. DeTemple, a prominent area businessman, set the
first two fires in an effort to obtain insurance proceeds to save his troubled
businesses. When this failed, DeTemple used Federal bankruptcy laws to limit
both business and personal financial exposure. During the course of the
bankruptcy process, DeTemple was found to have committed bankruptcy fraud.
The investigation further disclosed that DeTemple set the other two fires
in an attempt to use the insurance proceeds to fund his bankruptcy reorganization
DeTemple owned and operated three businesses: Imperial Marine (a boat
sales and service business), Imperial Pools (a hot tub and swimming pool
installation and service business), and Gary L. DeTemple Construction Company.
DeTemple also owned approximately 65 rental units in the Wheeling, West
United States Code
Title 18, Section 152, Bankruptcy Fraud (Three Counts)
Title 18, United States Code, Section 844(I), Arson (Three counts)
Title 18, United States Code, Section 1341, Mail Fraud (Fourteen counts)
1. DeTemple was shown to have substantially benefited financially from
three of the four fires included in the indictment. Analysis of the timing
of the individual fires also disclosed unique "windows of opportunity"
2. Evidence and testimony were also developed showing that Imperial Marine,
Inc., provided the primary cash flow for not only itself but for DeTemple's
other businesses and his personal lifestyle.
As to the Imperial Marine attempted arson:
3. On September 28, 1988, employees reported for work at an Imperial
Marine location that was used for boat sales and storage whereupon they
discovered evidence of a fire. The fire damage was discovered the morning
after an inspection by floor plan creditors disclosed that DeTemple had
been selling boats "Out of Trust." (Out of Trust means that DeTemple
had sold financed boats and never repaid the finance companies as required.
DeTemple had continued to report the boats as inventory and used the money
for other purposes). This fire self-extinguished, causing minimal damage.
No claim was submitted.
4. Gasoline pour patterns were discovered on a concrete floor where several
boats were located.
5. All accidental ignition sources were eliminated. The nearest electrical
outlet was 30 feet away and 3 feet off the floor.
6. Witnesses provided testimony that DeTemple had moved boats and inventory
into this location the night prior to the fire.
7. Evidence was presented that a total loss at this location could have
resulted in insurance claims of several hundred thousand dollars. A total
loss would have also left the creditors in the position of having to seek
payment from the insurance companies for any inventory allegedly destroyed
or unaccounted for.
8. A witness provided testimony that at about that time DeTemple had
asked him to burn another Marine business location which had insurance totaling
9. At about the time of the floor plan inspection, two finance companies
demanded payment of approximately $42,000 within a few days or they would
initiate actions to remove the inventory.
As to the Bayliner boat fire:
10. The second fire involved the total loss of a 1986 Bayliner boat on
October 18, 1988, with insurance totaling $55,000.
11. Evidence showed that DeTemple obtained the $55,000 insurance policy
on October 14, 1988, and called the agent the next day to confirm the insurance
was in force. The call was an unusual event because DeTemple had obtained
other policies through this agent and this was the only time he had made
a follow-up call to confirm insurance existence.
12. Although this particular boat was listed as property of Imperial
Marine, Inc., DeTemple had used it as his own for over 2 years.
13. Evidence showed that DeTemple had tried to sell this boat for $42,000.
14. The boat was burned in one of the most obscure sections of the Ohio
River near Paden City, West Virginia, approximately half way between Wheeling
15. DeTemple claimed to have paid a total of $50,995, with $12,995 having
been paid as a down payment by a personal check. A promissory note dated
September 24, 1988, for the remaining $38,000 was pledged by DeTemple for
16. Accelerant pour patterns were found on the boat.
17. Investigation showed that at the time, DeTemple did not have sufficient
funds in his personal accounts. He subsequently transferred funds from two
different Imperial Marine accounts into his personal account and then deposited
his personal check back into the Imperial Marine account. These transfers
didn't take place until November 1988.
18. The $38,000 promissory note was never satisfied by DeTemple and never
appeared in Imperial Marine's records as an account receivable.
19. The purpose of DeTemple's 3 hour boat trip to Parkersburg was to
store the craft for the winter in another Imperial Marine location in that
20. DeTemple made the trip alone and took an extra 5- gallon can of gasoline.
Trips back and forth to Parkersburg had been made on several previous occasions,
and this was the only time extra gasoline was taken.
21. Prior to departing Wheeling, DeTemple filled the boat with about
110 gallons of gas, approximately twice the amount needed for the trip.
22. Records obtained from a river lock location established the boat
was running smoothly, contrary to DeTemple's claim that it was sputtering
and running very roughly. The records also established an extra 30-45 minutes
between exiting the locks and the fire--time unable to be accounted for
23. Smoke from the boat fire was observed approximately 30 minutes before
DeTemple placed a Mayday call with a marine radio. This call was shown to
have occurred just minutes before he was rescued from an island near where
the boat was burning.
As to the bankruptcy:
24. In March 1989, Imperial Marine, Inc., filed for Chapter 11 protection
under the bankruptcy laws. The bankruptcy was converted to Chapter 7 liquidation
in September 1989. At the time, DeTemple was personally liable to Imperial
Marine creditors. In November 1989, DeTemple filed for personal protection
under the bankruptcy laws, which limited personal exposure to Imperial Marine's
creditors. Imperial Marine's bankruptcy closed on March 31, 1991, with creditors
settling for a fraction of their debt. Personal bankruptcy procedures continued.
As to the arson of DeTemple's residence:
25. On April 14, 1991, DeTemple burned his personal residence. Insurance
totaled $281,000, and his claim exceeded that amount.
26. Evidence established the fire was accelerated with the use of a kerosene
27. The evidence placed DeTemple in the secured residence within an hour
before the fire.
28. Telephone toll analysis raised questions as to DeTemple's account
of his actions at the time of the fire.
29. One witness, a former volunteer fireman, testified that DeTemple
had previously inquired as to how to burn the house and make it look accidental.
30. Another witness testified that DeTemple had asked him to burn the
house, but he refused.
31. In the Proof of Loss submitted in September 1991, DeTemple claimed
over $100,000 in personal assets. In his original personal bankruptcy filing,
DeTemple had claimed approximately $1,900 in personal assets.
32. DeTemple's creditors filed a motion to convert his personal bankruptcy
from Chapter 11 to Chapter 7 liquidation. The Allstate Insurance Company
had thus far resisted payment of the claims for the house fire, and the
matter was in extended litigation.
As to the arson of DeTemple's apartment building:
33. On October 31, 1991, at approximately 2:20 a.m., DeTemple burned
a 12-unit apartment building that he had owned. Insurance totaled approximately
34. Evidence showed that a bank holding a first lien for $44,000 had
instituted foreclosure proceedings against the property. A public auction
had been held on October 29, 1991, at which time the bank bought the building
back for $25,000. There were no other bids. Had the fire not occurred, this
amount would have been the only proceeds DeTemple derived.
35. A second bank was shown to have held another note in a second lien
position for $69,000.
36. DeTemple was shown to be 20 months delinquent in mortgage payments,
but he had collected rent for eight of the apartments until October 1991.
37. DeTemple maintained property insurance that was due to expire on
November 7, 1991.
38. DeTemple evicted the remaining tenants in October 1991.
39. DeTemple boarded and padlocked the building at his own expense, knowing
the bank was foreclosing.
40. A witness testified that DeTemple stated, prior to the fire, that
he knew the property wouldn't legally change hands until the deed was recorded
at the courthouse and that this process usually took several days.
41. DeTemple provided keys and a copy of his insurance policy to the
bank the morning after the fire.
42. DeTemple was shown to have received an insurance check for $136,000.
This was in addition to having the two bank notes paid. The total insurance
monies paid on DeTemple's behalf was approximately $250,000, ten times the
43. Additional evidence showed that in December 1991, DeTemple began
to aggressively pursue payment for the boat fire loss of October 1988. DeTemple
had made no effort to collect this money prior to this time.
44. The prosecution also showed that in January 1992, DeTemple filed
a plan of reorganization with the Bankruptcy Court, which was approved in
March 1992. In the plan, DeTemple identified approximately $600,000 in insurance
payments, either received or anticipated, from the three fires as a primary
source to fund the reorganization. Expert testimony was introduced which
concluded that the plan would not have been approved had it not been for
the insurance proceeds.
I. LEGAL ISSUES AND PROBLEMS:
During the course of pre-trial, trial, and appeal procedures, the court
appointed several different attorneys to represent DeTemple. At times the
defendant proceeded pro-se, and this subsequently raised a series of issues
concerning allegations of ineffective counsel and the court's failure to
The defendant filed motions for a new trial on the basis that the court
erred in denying the defendant's pre-trial motion to have the judge recuse
Additional issues raised by the defendant dealt with allegations that
the Court's instructions to the jury were prejudicially infirm, that the
Government presented insufficient evidence, that the Government presented
mutually inconsistent alleged falsities, and the Government improperly presented
extrinsic evidence on rebuttal for the purpose of impeaching the defendant's
All appeal motions have thus far been denied by the District Court. Currently,
the University of Virginia Law School has agreed to review the case for
possible appeal to the Fourth Circuit.
J. VERDICT AND SENTENCING:
On October 6, 1995, after a 4-week trial and testimony from 89 witnesses,
Gary L. DeTemple was found guilty on all 20 counts. The defendant was remanded
to the custody of the U.S. Marshal pending imposition of sentence. On September
9, 1997, DeTemple was sentenced to 95 months' incarceration to be followed
by 3 years' supervised release.