RUTLAND, Vt.—Agents for the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) said a casual conversation in a bar between an employee of a Rutland tire dealership and a 27-year-old Rutland man led to a burglary and a million-dollar fire Aug. 25 that destroyed National On Location Tire Shop in Rutland. ATF agents and Vermont State Police detectives apprehended Scott Manfredi Sept. 4. He faces federal charges on one count of maliciously destroying by fire a building used in interstate commerce.
In an affidavit filed with the U.S. District Court in Burlington, Vt., ATF Special Agent Richard Dotchin wrote that Joe Kelley, a mechanic at National, and Mr. Manfredi were drinking together on the evening of Aug. 24.
According to the affidavit, Mr. Manfredi said he wanted to do a burglary where there wasn't an alarm system and Mr. Kelley told him there was no alarm at National, where he worked.
At approximately 11:30 p.m., Mr. Kelley allegedly drove Mr. Manfredi to the area of the tire dealership and dropped him off.
At about 2 a.m. on Aug. 25 a passing motorist observed smoke coming from the National building and called 9-1-1.
Chief Robert Schlachter of the Rutland Town Fire Department said it took about 60 firefighters from several area fire departments about four hours to bring the blaze—partially fueled by about 500 burning tires—under control.
Several hours after the blaze was extinguished, firefighters had to return when part of the building's roof reignited.
Besides the tire shop, the building housed a candle factory, a graphics company and a pepperoni storage facility. The 11,400-sq.-ft. structure was destroyed, and the loss has been estimated at about $1 million.
Detective Sgt. Dennis Holman of the Vermont State Police said, due to the size of the fire, about 14 ATF investigators were called in to assist in the investigation.
According to the ATF affidavit, investigators determined a rear door at the dealership had been forced open and about $70 and a check had been taken from a cash drawer.
The affidavit states Mr. Manfredi later told Mr. Kelly he broke into the building, stole some cash and offered to split it with him. Mr. Manfredi also admitted setting a fire at the tire shop and said, ``Maybe it went out; maybe it didn't.''
Mr. Kelley was upset because the building was destroyed and went to the authorities on Sept. 3. Later that day, Mr. Kelley agreed to wear a hidden ATF recorder and transmitter to tape a meeting with Mr. Manfredi at the Vermont State Fair in Rutland.
The affidavit states during that meeting and a subsequent monitored phone call between the two men, Mr. Manfredi made additional admissions about the burglary and fire.
After his arrest, Mr. Manfredi's residence was searched under a federal search warrant by ATF agents, state and local police.
Mr. Manfredi is in the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service pending a detention hearing Sept. 13 to determine if bail will be set. If convicted, Mr. Manfredi faces a sentence of five to 20 years in prison.
Mr. Dotchin refused to comment when asked if any charges would be filed against Mr. Kelley.
Robert Ettori, the owner of the tire dealership and the building, could not be reached for comment.