Following a joint investigation by the State Fire Marshal's Office, the Polk County Sheriff's Office and the State Attorney's Office, a PCSO Deputy Sheriff was charged today (Friday, June 6, 2003) with Arson of a Vehicle and Grand Theft for the arson of his personal vehicle.
Benjamin G. Smith, DOB 12/21/77, of Winter Haven, turned himself in this afternoon to the Polk County Jail after a warrant was issued charging him with the arson of his personal vehicle in an attempt to defraud his insurance company. He was booked into the Polk County Jail, and then released on pre-trial release.
The joint investigation revealed that Smith was responsible for the arson of his personal vehicle, a 2002 Chevy Cavalier, that he reported stolen from his residence on April 19, 2003. The vehicle was recovered on mine property located on State Road 555 near 640. The interior of the vehicle had been burned. The State Fire Marshal's Office determined the fire to be arson.
The investigation revealed that Smith did not park his vehicle in his apartment complex garage as usual the day he reported the vehicle stolen, and there were no obvious signs of the vehicle being broken into. An examination determined that only a key had been used to enter or move the vehicle - it had not been broken into or towed, and Smith was in possession of both sets of keys for the vehicle. Smith, who owed approximately $6,000 more than what the vehicle was worth, filed a claim for the vehicle with his insurance company after the vehicle was damaged by fire.
Smith, who has been a PCSO Deputy Sheriff since 2000, began his career at the PCSO as a telecommunicator in 1998. He has been on administrative leave since April 28, 2003, pending the outcome of the criminal investigation. Following his arrest today, he submitted his resignation.
State Fire Marshal Captain John Corbett
serves as the regional commander and can be reached at 863-581-3150 for
questions about the arson investigation.
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