WILMINGTON, Ill. (CBS) — A firefighter from the Will County town of Wilmington is charged with doing the opposite of his job and setting something on fire in a scheme to collect insurance money.
Ronald Armstrong, 22, of Wilmington, was arrested Friday on charges of arson and insurance fraud for allegedly torching his own truck. He had been with the Wilmington Fire Department since January 2009.
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Also arrested was Armstrong’s friend, Jeremy Sorensen, of Wilmington. Sorensen, who does not work for the fire department, was charged with arson.
At 8:25 p.m. Feb. 12, Will County Sheriff’s police were called to a plowed field near Sorensen’s residence where Wilmington firefighters were extinguishing the burned-out shell of Armstrong’s tan 2005 Ford F250.
“The truck’s interior was but a mere burnt shell with no interior piece recognizable for what it was before the fire,” a deputy reported. “The truck’s motor was melted but for the metal engine block. The truck bed tool box was mostly burnt with small pieces of metal visible, giving a hint to what it once used to be.”
Armstrong and Sorensen arrived, and Armstrong reportedly claimed he’d left the truck at his friend’s house for a week while he’d gone out of town, but then said he’d parked it there two hours earlier to have dinner with Sorensen. A deputy noted Armstrong owed $20,000 on the vehicle and had switched his insurance to State Farm three days earlier.
Armstrong’s mother reportedly called in a claim within minutes of being informed of the blaze.
Wilmington Fire Chief Tim Zlomie requested an arson investigator from another department to examine the pickup and those findings were given to the state fire marshal. The marshal’s office obtained arrest warrants and Armstrong and Sorensen were interviewed by Will County Sheriff’s detectives Friday.
Zlomie said Armstrong was placed on administrative leave from the department Thursday.
Zlomie would not comment on the specifics of the pending investigation, but said the department “will not tolerate arson and will continue working in conjunction with the marshal and law enforcement regarding this case.”