(KRQE) – A Michigan man has been accused of a cross-country arson spree that included more than two dozen semi-truck fires in at least eight states, the Department of Justice announced.
Viorel Pricop, 64, was arrested on Tuesday and charged with one count of arson of property in interstate commerce.
Federal investigators believe that Pricop, a truck driver from Allen Park, Michigan, may have been retaliating against his former employer, Swift Transportation, when allegedly setting the blazes.
Investigators say 25 separate trucks belonging to Swift Transportation had been set on fire between June 2020 and Sept. 2022, all at refueling or rest stops, and all in the middle of the night, according to an affidavit filed with the federal complaint.
Investigators collected data from cell phone towers and determined the same GPS device was present at the location of the fires. That device was installed in a commercial truck owned by Pricop, they said. Pricop’s cell phone was also later found to have been present at the site of 24 of the fires.
Search warrants on Pricop’s vehicle and home turned up documents and other records coinciding with locations where the fires occurred, investigators said.
The fires mainly occurred along Interstates 10 and 40. Investigators are aware of at least 25 similar blazes, including nine in New Mexico, six in California, three in Arizona, three in Texas, and one each in Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana and Oklahoma.
The defendant has only been charged with one count of arson so far, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Central District of California. The charge carries a minimum sentence of five years in prison and a maximum of 20.
Pricop had previously been convicted of transportation of stolen goods in 2018. Swift Transportation cooperated with that investigation, as well.