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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
Wheeling, WV
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

E. PROSECUTORS:

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 plan.

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 Virginia area.

G. CHARGES:

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)

H. EVIDENCE:

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" for him.

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 $450,000.

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 and Parkersburg.

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 the balance.

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 city.

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 by DeTemple.

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 pour.

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 $277,000.

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 auction price.

Other evidence

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 appoint co-counsel.

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 himself.

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 testimony.

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.

 
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