CLEARFIELD – A Morrisdale man pleaded guilty to arson Tuesday during sentencing court in Clearfield County.
William Blake Verbeck, 63, was charged with arson after an incident Aug. 23, 2016 when he set his truck on fire then claimed that raffle tickets and cash for the Morris Township Fire Department were inside.
He was also originally charged with theft by unlawful taking and theft by deception for those tickets.
Verbeck was sentenced to 30 days to one year in jail and three years consecutive probation by President Judge Fredric J. Ammerman Tuesday.
If he had not paid restitution of $1,460 prior to sentencing, he would have gotten a 90-day sentence.
However, it was noted that additional restitution is due to the fire company, and he was ordered to pay a total of more than $2,700 to the Morris Township Fire Company and more than $4,700 to the bank that financed the vehicle.
According to the affidavit of probable cause, fire departments from Winburne and Grassflat responded to the fire with 18 firefighters.
A deputy fire marshal with the state police determined the fire began within the cab of the pickup truck, but was unable to find the cause.
He did notice there were an inordinate amount of paper products, including a phone book and mail in the vehicle, but he was unable to find any evidence of raffle tickets or cash.
He began to suspect Verbeck had started the fire intentionally in order to cover up the fact that the money had been spent.
When Verbeck was questioned by police, he said he had money problems and stated there was $300 in cash in the truck along with $800 worth of ticket stubs.
Another $600 worth of stubs were found at Verbeck’s residence, but no cash was recovered. Verbeck then admitted to officers he was using the money to pay his bills and confessed to intentionally lighting the fire using a cigar and tissue paper, according to authorities.
At least eight people told the fire department that they purchased tickets from Verbeck, but no tickets in their names were turned in by Verbeck or any other ticket sellers. They were given replacement tickets.
The fire department estimated their losses to be at least $2,000 for missing tickets, replacement tickets, cash, refunds and legal fees. In addition, the bank that financed the vehicle reported Verbeck still owed them for the truck.