Miami Man Charged with Arson of Okeechobee City Convenience Store
Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Hugo Barrera, Special Agent in Charge, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), Miami Field Office, Jeff Atwater, Chief Financial Officer, Florida Department of Financial Services, Division of State Fire Marshal, Bureau of Fire and Arson Investigation, Dennis Davis, Chief, Okeechobee City Police Department, Herb Smith, Fire Chief, Okeechobee City Fire Department, and James K. Loftus, Director, Miami-Dade Police Department (MDPD), announce that Christopher Van Hatcher, 33, of Miami, was charged with arson, in violation of Title 18, Untied States Code, Sections 844(i). At a court hearing earlier today, Hatcher was ordered detained pending trial. If convicted on the arson charge, Van Hatcher faces a mandatory minimum sentence of five years and a maximum of 30 years in prison.
According to the indictment filed in the case, on May 4, 2011, Van Hatcher maliciously damaged and destroyed through arson the business known as Handy Food Store, in Okeechobee, Florida, and the property inside. According to statements made in court, Hatcher burglarized the Handy Food convenience store through a hole he made in the roof. Once inside the convenience store, Hatcher disabled several security cameras and stole Florida lottery scratch-off tickets and other products. Before leaving the convenience store, Hatcher allegedly set fire to the remaining lottery tickets. Members of the Okeechobee City Police and Fire Departments responded to the fire.
According to statements made in court, investigators found evidence on the roof top that helped to identify Hatcher. Among the items found on the roof were a Turbo Tax refund card issued to Hatcher and other evidence. Further investigation revealed that Hatcher was attempting to redeem several winning scratch off tickets that had been stolen from the convenience store.
Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of ATF, Florida’s Department of Financial Services, the Okeechobee City Police Department, the Okeechobee City Fire Department, and MDPD. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Adam McMichael.
An indictment is only an accusation and a defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.
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 http://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 http://www.flsd.uscourts.gov or on http://pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov.