Texas man pleads guilty to setting truck fires

| 4/6/2005

A Weatherford, TX, man will be sentenced in July for scamming insurance companies by setting a series of truck fires.

Randall Ellery Orff pleaded guilty April 5, 2005, in federal court in Fort Worth, TX, to one count of mail fraud, one count of use of fire to commit felony and one count of destruction of a vehicle in interstate commerce.

According to a statement from U.S. Attorney Richard B. Roper, Orff, 41, faces a maximum sentence of 15 to 35 years imprisonment, a $750,000 fine and could be required to pay restitution. Sentencing is set for July 12, 2005, before U.S. District Judge Terry R. Means.

Orff was employed as a long-distance independent truck driver for various interstate trucking companies, the Department of Justice stated. He owned and operated tractor-trailers, and would either insure his tractors with various insurance companies or would obtain coverage under the policies of the companies hiring him.

According to documents filed in court, Orff admitted that from 1992 through mid-July 2003, he set at least 13 tractor fires, and at least one house trailer fire. The total amount of losses caused by these fires was more than $300,000. Usually Orff started a fire in the tractor making it appear that the fire was caused by an electrical problem. Orff then claimed to investigators and insurance companies that the fires were the result of electrical or mechanical problems or some other accidental cause.

Prosecutors say Orff burned trucks while employed with, among others, Mason Dixon Lines, Universal Am-Cam and Southwest Carriers, and filed claims to collect damages resulting from the fires.

“It's this type of criminal activity that has such a negative impact on everybody's insurance rates,” said Ronnie Carter, a special agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. “This long-term, cooperative investigation was certainly worth the effort.”

Roper praised the investigative efforts of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives as well as the Weatherford, TX, Fire Marshal, the Weatherford Fire Department and the Weatherford Police Department. The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark L. Nichols.