In Pa., Ex-Fire Chief Sentenced for Arson

April 19, 2004

A third-generation fire chief has been sentenced to nearly three years in prison for his role in a scheme to torch the department’s social hall so his tiny department could afford to build another.

Steven Dugan was sentenced to 35 months by U.S. District Justice Gustave Diamond. Dugan was not charged with planning or setting the fires, but prosecutors said he was aware of plans hatched by his subordinates in the 15-man department to collect insurance money, and lied to investigators about the fire.

Thomas Baker, the former assistant chief and Dugan’s brother-in-law, pleaded guilty in January to mail fraud and aiding the arson. Jerry Booker II, the department’s former vice president, also pleaded guilty to mail fraud and a federal arson charge for helping set both fires.

Baker and Booker were each sentenced to five years in prison.

William A. Robison, a former department trustee who pleaded guilty to mail fraud in January for his role in filing the false insurance claim, was to be sentenced later.

A jury deliberated for an hour before convicting Dugan in January of mail fraud for misleading investigators. He was the only one of the four members or officials with the Isabella Volunteer Fire Department who did not plead guilty to setting or covering up two fires on June 26 and June 30, 2002.

The fire department and social hall founded by Dugan’s grandfather was destroyed, as was a 1937 International Pumper, the department’s first fire truck.

Not enough damage was done during the first fire that was set on June 26, so members of the fire department returned four days later and finished the job, prosecutors said.

Dugan lied to insurance investigators that he didn’t have any information about how the fires might have happened, prosecutors said.

His grandfather, James Dugan, founded the department in 1936 after his 7-year-old daughter died in a fire in the small community near the West Virginia border in Fayette County.

Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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