The Central District of California’s U.S. Attorney’s Office has laid “a single count of arson” against Viorel Pricop, 64, of Allen Park, Michigan. He was arrested on Tuesday, October 11 for the destruction of 25 Swift trailers at fuel islands and rest areas at locations in eight states.
Yet another reason to check your tires while at the fuel pump and before you go to sleep
Jump into the time machine and head back to 2018 and Detroit, where Pricop was sentenced for transportation of stolen goods. He was sentenced to two years in prison, but was released for time served.
His “supervised release” ended in June 2019, and about a year later, the fires of revenge began to spread.
According to an affidavit filed with the complaint, 25 trailers owned by Swift Transportation, the Phoenix-based commercial trucking company we all hate to see on “Twisted Truckers,” were set ablaze between June 2020 and September 2022.
In each of the fiery incidents, the truck was parked or stopped at a fuel station or rest area when a fire began, consuming the trailer. The fires were started on or near the trailer tires.
These arsons occurred at locations from Barstow, California to McCalla, Alabama, with most incidents occurring along Interstate 10 and Interstate 40. Six fires were set in California, three in Arizona, nine in New Mexico, three in Texas, and one fire each in Oklahoma, Louisiana, Arkansas and Alabama.
That cell phone we all carry is a tracking device
Swift quickly hired fire investigation consultants to assist with fire scene examinations. A pattern began to develop. Similar methods of lighting the trailers on fire, where on the vehicles the fires began, and the fact that the fires occurred late at night were important points used to trace the carnage.
Cell phone towers near the fires revealed that a “specific GPS navigation device” installed in a commercial truck was present when the fires occurred. Investigators learned that this GPS unit was installed in a vehicle owned and operated by Pricop.
Police identified the cell phone number tied to Pricop and, by using warrants for cellular data and tower locations, learned that the phone was in the general vicinity of all but one of the fires.
On September 16, search warrants were executed on Pricop’s truck and home. Additional evidence on his alleged involvement in the arsons were driver’s logs, bills of lading, shipping receipts, and other “record-keeping documents” were seized from Pricop’s vehicles and residence, tying him to the locations.
Many of these documents contained location information, such as cargo pickup and delivery times and dates, which coincided with locations where fires in this series occurred.
Here is a link to the official press release from the Central California U.S. Attorney’s Office. Assistant United States Attorney John A. Balla of the Riverside Branch Office is prosecuting this case.