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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


Pacaccio's Hair Salon
Arlington, Texas
February 5, 1996


A. IN: 53220-96-0015 E

B. CASE AGENT: Sharon K. Wheeler

C. FIELD DIVISION/OFFICE: Dallas/Group II Arson Task Force

D. PHONE: 214-767-0530

E. PROSECUTORS:

Colleen Murphy
Mike Snipes
Assistant U.S. Attorneys
Northern Judicial District of Texas

F. SYNOPSIS:

At approximately 1:00 a.m. on February 5, 1996, an arson fire occurred at Pacaccio's Hair Salon in Arlington, Texas. This salon was centrally located in a strip shopping center that housed, among other things, an exotic (nude) gentlemen's tanning salon and a bar. The fire caused approximately $50,000 in damages to the salon and over $200,000 in damages to the building and other adjoining businesses. Investigation revealed that the owner of the salon, Charles Nathaniel Thomas, had paid a coconspirator, Hardy Gene Parker, $1,000 to set the salon on fire for insurance profits of $70,000 for contents coverage. Parker, in turn, paid coconspirator John Irvin Jenkins $500 to actually set the fire. After the fire, Thomas filed proof of loss statements to Ohio Insurance Company to claim the insurance profits.

G. CHARGES:

United States Code

Title 18, Section 844(i), Maliciously Damaging by Means of a Fire a Building Involved in Interstate Commerce.

Title 18, Section 844(h), Use of Fire to Commit a Felony

Title 18, Section 371, Conspiracy

Title 18, Section 1341, Mail Fraud (two counts)

H. EVIDENCE:

1. The owner, Charles Nathanial Thomas, let insurance on all personal and other business assets lapse with the exception of the hair salon. He paid the premium in full 3 weeks prior to the fire.

2. Thomas and his wife arrived at the fire scene within 15 minutes of notification of the fire and appeared to be wide awake and clear headed at 3:00 a.m. They lived approximately 18 miles from the fire site. The wife was in full makeup, although they later told fire investigators that they were asleep when notified about the fire.

3. The fire scene investigation revealed that the fire had been intentionally set. There were five separate points of origin, all set with gasoline. The insurance policy for the salon was laying alone on the office desk top, as though someone had been reviewing it.

4. Interviews with employees and associates of the owner revealed that the salon had been experiencing financial difficulties. Thomas was 1 month behind on his mortgage at the time and had received an eviction notice.

5. Thomas owed vast sums of money to sports bookies in the Dallas area. He had offered the salon to one bookie just prior to the fire as payment for his debts. That bookie refused the offer and requested that Thomas find some way to pay his gambling debts. He had invested approximately $90,000 to build the salon but in desperation was willing to sell it for $16,000. Thomas also owed Harrah's casino $10,000 and a business associate $11,000. He was on bond at the time of the fire for violating Texas organized crime statutes for keeping a gambling establishment.

6. Thomas was living well above his means. In 1995, he purchased a new home, a new pickup truck, a new Corvette, two four-wheelers, and a trailer. Thomas showed that he made only $17,000 in personal income that year.

7. Interviews revealed that prior to the fire, Thomas had made many comments in reference to burning down the salon.

8. Thomas' right-hand man came forward after several intensive interviews and stated that after the fire he had paid Hardy Parker for burning the business for Charles Thomas. That right-hand man was given full immunity in return for his cooperation.

9. Hardy Parker admitted to his involvement in the conspiracy and gave information leading to John Jenkins. Parker later wore a wire while paying Jenkins additional money as payment for the fire. This payment was videotaped by ATF and used as evidence during trial. Upon arrest, Jenkins gave a full statement detailing his involvement.

I. LEGAL ISSUES AND PROBLEMS:

Thomas was involved in so many illegal activities that much of it was kept out of trial due to the judge's opinion that it was too prejudicial. Thomas had made an extensive number of insurance claims that were found to be suspect. Only one of these claims was allowed in court, under evidence rule 404b.

J. VERDICT AND SENTENCING:

After a 6-day jury trial, Charles Nathanial Thomas was found guilty on all five counts. On April 3, 1997, he was sentenced to 105 months in prison, 36 months' supervised release, and was ordered to make restitution of $178,000.

Hardy Parker pled guilty to one conspiracy count and was sentenced February 4, 1997, to 18 months imprisonment followed by 36 months' supervised release. He was also ordered to pay $178,000 restitution.

John Irvin Jenkins pled guilty to arson and conspiracy and was sentenced March 27, 1997, to 30 months' imprisonment and 36 months' supervised release. Due to ill health, Jenkins was not required to pay restitution.

 
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