Florida Agencies Announce Arrests in ‘Operation Christmas Tree’

May 22, 2013

Florida Chief Financial Officer and State Fire Marshal Jeff Atwater, Marion County Sheriff Chris Blair and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives announced multiple arrests in “Operation Christmas Tree,” an investigation into a series of residential structure fires in Marion County. The investigation resulted in the arrest of eight individuals charged with organized fraud, arson and burning to defraud the insurer.

“Last year alone, arson cost Floridians more than $69 million in property damage and endangered the lives of honest, hard-working individuals,” CFO Atwater said. “I am proud of the diligent, collaborative efforts across state and local law enforcement. Our efforts together led to the arrests of these criminals.”

“We are elated over the outcome of this investigation and proud of our agency partnerships in Operation Christmas Tree,” said Sheriff Blair.

The investigation revealed that three fires in Marion County had been intentially set and fraudulent insurance claims filed associated with these fires. Further information revealed that the scheme to defraud was orchestrated by Rocky Edward Williams, Sr, who provided counsel and funding to the occupants for the scheme. Additional residential structure fires may be related to the scheme and the investigation into these fires continues.

Source: Florida Chief Financial Officer and State Fire Marshal

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