A recreational vehicle mechanic has been charged with seven arsons in a series of 30 suspicious fires along Florida’s U.S. 1 in the past two years, according to the Fort Pierce Tribune.
Benjamin Harris, 40, who lives and works at Camper Connections on U.S. 1, was arrested at the St. Lucie County jail on Friday (Feb. 25).
He had been at the jail for seven weeks on charges of setting off a fire extinguisher at a place of business, according to a St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Office release.
Harris is a suspect in the other 23 fires, the majority at RV dealerships, but has not been charged with setting them. Estimated damage caused by the seven fires with which Harris is charged exceeds $350,000, reports indicate.
Officials from the Sheriff’s Office, Fort Pierce Police Department, St. Lucie County Fire District, state Fire Marshal’s Office and the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives worked on the case.
Detectives suspected early on that the arsonist lived in the area where the fires took place. Investigators noted that Harris was at the scene of some of the fires. In one case, he was “visibly intoxicated” and argumentative when he was asked to leave, a sheriff’s report states.
A confidential informant stepped forward in December and agreed to wear a monitoring device while he spoke with Harris, sheriff’s Detective Deron Brown said. The recordings proved crucial in gathering enough information to obtain an arrest warrant, investigators said.