A man implicated in an arson-and-fraud scheme when his clothes caught fire during a house blaze he helped set has pleaded guilty to federal conspiracy and other charges.
John S. Wayne, 31, of Kansas City, Missouri, entered the pleas Monday in his hometown to counts of arson, conspiracy and fraud. A sentencing date was not immediately set, though Wayne faces a mandatory minimum prison term of five years and could get as much as 25 years behind bars.
As part of a deal with prosecutors, Wayne also must repay insurers roughly $435,000 that the government says the conspiracy netted.
Authorities say Wayne and five other defendants who already have pleaded guilty participated in buying, over-insuring and burning five Kansas City homes over several years. Those included one home damaged during a 2011 blaze, two days before Wayne and another defendant – 28-year-old Joshua Stamps, whom authorities have said was the ringleader – returned to it and set it on fire again, this time destroying it.
That fire proved to be Wayne’s undoing. A witness saw Wayne bolting from that house with his sweatpants on fire, then shedding those clothes and boots in the street. Genetic evidence from the clothing was linked to Wayne, and lab testing showed that the pants and boots had evaporated gasoline on them, prosecutors said.
The day of that fire, authorities said, Wayne told investigators that Stamps was the getaway car’s driver but refused to take him to the hospital for treatment for his burns, instead buying Wayne some burn ointment. When that didn’t help, prosecutors said, Wayne sought doctors’ care.
As part of the plot that lasted until 2013, prosecutors said, Stamps bought houses for $6,500 to $15,000 beginning in mid-2007 and insured them for far more than the purchase price, in amounts ranging from $88,000 to $307,000. Stamps used co-defendants as straw owners for three of the houses while the other accomplices either helped with the arson fires or acted as tenants so the properties could be classified as rentals, authorities said.
Stamps, of Independence, pleaded guilty in 2014 to charges of arson and insurance fraud.
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