Man accused of setting fire to 25 semi-truck trailers in eight states, including Alabama

Published 9:43 pm Wednesday, October 12, 2022

A Michigan man has been arrested on a federal criminal complaint alleging he set 25 fires on semitrailers in eight states over more than two years, all belonging to the same trucking company, prosecutors said Wednesday.

Viorel Pricop, 64, of Allen Park, Michigan, was arrested Tuesday morning. A detention hearing is scheduled for Thursday in U.S. District Court in Detroit. It wasn’t immediately clear whether he had an attorney who could comment on his behalf.

Pricop is charged with one count of arson of property in interstate commerce, which carries sentence of five to 20 years in prison.

An affidavit said 25 trailers owned by Phoenix-based Swift Transportation were set ablaze while stopped at fuel stations or rest areas from June 2020 through last month. In each case, the fire occurred in or on the trailer portion of the vehicle, mainly on or near the trailer tires.

Pricop was convicted in 2018 in Michigan for transportation of stolen goods and sentenced to two years in prison in an investigation and prosecution in which Swift cooperated, prosecutors said.

A GPS navigation device installed in a commercial truck owned and operated by Pricop was present at the fires, and a cellphone used by Pricop was present near 24 of the 25 fires, the affidavit said.

Search warrants executed last month on Pricop’s vehicle and residence turned up logbooks, bills of lading, shipping receipts and other records coinciding with locations where the fires occurred, the affidavit said.

The fires happened at locations from Barstow, California, to McCalla, Alabama, with most occurring along Interstates 10 and 40, prosecutors said. Police have learned of six fires in California, three in Arizona, nine in New Mexico, three in Texas and one each in Oklahoma, Louisiana, Arkansas and Alabama.