California Man Sentenced To 151 Months In Prison For Conspiracy To Commit Arson And Extortion
LAS VEGAS, Nev. – A California man who was convicted of conspiracy to burn down a local business and extortion was sentenced Thursday to 151 months in prison, announced U.S. Attorney Dayle Elieson for the District of Nevada.
Joel Kenneth Ausbie, 53, of Fontana, California, was previously found guilty by a jury of one-count of conspiracy to commit arson and one-count of committing extortion by force or threat of injury. United States District Judge James C. Mahan presided over the three-day jury trial and the sentencing hearing.
According to the superseding indictment and other court documents, Ausbie recruited and paid co-defendant Joseph A. Strickland to discharge a firearm into Ausbie’s estranged common law wife’s parents’ home. He wanted to compel his estranged wife to return money that he believed belonged to him. Ausbie could not locate his estranged wife who was in hiding, and instead targeted her family members to obtain payment.
On October 20, 2015, at approximately 1:00 a.m., following Ausbie’s orders, Strickland went to the parents’ home and shot a revolver six times into the occupied residence. He then threw vice grips into a window with a note attached demanding that Ausbie’s estranged wife return the money to Ausbie. The note read: “…This is a warning! Ima touch everything you love in a vicious way! Return that money or continue to rest easy with your families’ blood on you hands… Give me my money! Ima kill kill kill and kill.”
Ausbie and co-defendant Calvin Robinson subsequently sent a series of text messages to the parents threatening that if the money was not returned to Ausbie, then they would be killed. Ausbie then recruited Strickland to set fire to the parents’ business, Las Vegas Kettle Corn & Special Events, LLC, in Henderson. Robinson provided Strickland with directions and a note for him to tape to the front window of the business after setting the fire. The note read: “I still don’t have my money. This is the last warning! Next time someone is going to be dead.”
On October 30, 2015, Strickland set fire to the business as directed and left the note. The business was heavily damaged by the fire and was permanently closed. Ausbie recruited Strickland to set another fire to the parents’ second store location at the Downtown Container Park on Fremont Street. However, law enforcement arrested Ausbie prior to him arranging payment for the arson, and, as a result, that arson did not occur.
Robinson, 42, of Pomona, Calif., pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 108 months in prison. Strickland, 35, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 30 months in prison.
The case was investigated by the FBI and the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Lisa Cartier-Giroux and Cristina D. Silva prosecuted the case.
To report a tip about suspicious arson activity contact the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives at 1-888-ATF-FIRE (283-3473) or visit www.reportit.com.