Michigan Man Arrested on Complaint Alleging Deliberately Burning 25 Commercial Trucks in Eight Different States in 2 Years | USAO-CDCA

RIVERSIDE, California – A Michigan man appeared in court today after being arrested in connection with a federal criminal complaint alleging he deliberately started 25 fires on trailers belonging to a major commercial trucking company in eight different states over a period of more than two years.

Viorel Pricop, 64, of Allen Park, Michigan, was arrested Tuesday morning and made his first appearance today in United States District Court in Detroit, where a detention hearing is scheduled for tomorrow.

Pricop is charged with one count of arson of property in interstate commerce, a felony that carries a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in federal prison and a statutory maximum of 20 years in federal prison.

According to an affidavit filed with the complaint, 25 tractor-trailers belonging to Swift Transportation, a Phoenix-based commercial trucking company, were set on fire from June 2020 to September 2022. In each of the incidents, the truck belonging to Swift was parked or s stopped at a gas station or rest area when a fire started in or on the trailer portion of the vehicle, primarily on or near the trailer tires.

These incidents occurred in locations ranging from Barstow, Calif. to McCalla, Alabama, with most incidents occurring along Interstate 10 and Interstate 40. Law enforcement has learned the There are six fires in California, three fires in Arizona, nine fires in New Mexico, three fires in Texas, and one fire each in Oklahoma, Louisiana, Arkansas and Alabama.

Swift hired fire investigation consultants to help with fire scene reviews. A trend also began to develop when multiple reports noted substantially similar methods of igniting the trailers on fire, including where the fires started on the vehicles and the fact that the fires occurred late at night. .

A survey of cell phone towers near the fires revealed that a specific GPS navigation device installed in a commercial truck was present at the fires. Law enforcement determined that this device was installed on a vehicle owned and operated by Pricop, the affidavit states. Law enforcement then identified the cell phone subscribed to Pricop and, through analysis of historical cellular data and ping warrants, learned that the phone was present in the general area of ​​24 of the 25 fires, according to the affidavit.

On September 16, search warrants were executed on Pricop’s vehicle and residence, providing further evidence of his alleged involvement in this series of arson attacks. Numerous logbooks, bills of lading, shipping receipts and other record keeping documents were obtained in paper and digital form from Pricop’s vehicles and residence. According to the affidavit, many of these documents contained location information, such as cargo pick-up and delivery dates, which coincided with the locations where the fires in this series occurred.

Further checks of Pricop’s records revealed that he had a 2018 conviction in the Eastern District of Michigan for transporting stolen property. Swift has cooperated in the investigation and prosecution of this matter. Pricop was sentenced to two years in prison and given credit for time served. His probation ended in June 2019, about a year before the arson in that case began, the affidavit says.

A complaint contains allegations that an accused has committed a crime. All accused are presumed innocent until their guilt has been proven beyond reasonable doubt.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is investigating this case.

Assistant United States Attorney John A. Balla of the Riverside Branch is prosecuting the case.

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