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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Western District of Kentucky

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, July 13, 2018

Columbia, Kentucky Man Convicted Of Arson And Insurance Fraud

Adair County Volunteer Firefighter killed while fighting blaze

             BOWLING GREEN, Ky. – A jury convicted a Columbia, Kentucky man yesterday following a five-day jury trial in United States District Court on charges of arson and insurance fraud, announced United States Attorney Russell M. Coleman.  The defendant set the fire, which destroyed his home, in order to collect on a $50,000 rental insurance policy.  An Adair County Volunteer Firefighter died while fighting the fire.

            “The men and women of our fire services are unsung heroes” said U.S. Attorney Russell Coleman “Greed-fueled arson that endangers those public servants will be appropriately dealt with by the Department of Justice.”

            The evidence introduced at trial established that the defendant, Steve Allen “Boo” Pritchard, 44, of Columbia, Kentucky, hatched a plan with his girlfriend, co-defendant Brandi Waggener, to set fire to their rental home, located in Columbia, Kentucky, during the early morning hours of June 30, 2011.  The Adair County Fire Department arrived on scene at approximately 3:12 AM.  While fighting the fire, Volunteer Fireman Charles Sparks suffered a heart attack on the second floor of the home.  He was rushed to the hospital and died eight days later on July 8, 2011.  In addition to his service as a volunteer firefighter, Sparks was a longtime Kentucky State Fire Marshal. 

            At trial, Pritchard provided an alibi that he was in Louisville delivering glass for his employer during the fire.  However, federal prosecutors disproved his alibi by introducing cell phone location data obtained by the FBI.  Several of co-defendants’ family and friends also testified that Pritchard had bragged about starting the fire in order to collect on the insurance policy.  Finally, federal prosecutors introduced evidence that established Pritchard had been involved in four previous fires that were set in order to collect insurance proceeds, one of which involved Pritchard setting fire to his own car. 

            Pritchard will be sentenced in Bowling Green on October 21, 2018, at 9:00 a.m. by United States District Court Judge Greg Stivers.  Pritchard faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 7 years in prison up to a maximum sentence of life imprisonment, $500,000 fine, and five years of supervised release.  Judge Stivers ordered Pritchard into the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service after the jury announced its guilty verdict.  Waggener, who remains free on bond, has already pled guilty to both charges and is scheduled to be sentenced in Bowling Green on July 31, 2018 at 10:15 a.m.

            Assistant United States Attorneys David Weiser and Nute Bonner are prosecuting the case.  The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Kentucky State Police conducted the investigation.

Topic(s): 
Financial Fraud
Updated July 16, 2018