A vehicle fire on the Tonto Apache Reservation March 21 was an arson-for-hire, according to a report from the Payson Police Department.
"The FBI has taken over the case," Payson Police Det. Steve Johnson said. "If charges are filed they will probably go through federal courts."
The fire was called in at about 5 a.m. The vehicle, a truck owned by a 16-year-old male, was broken into and its audio equipment stolen before it was set on fire. The suspect left a bike at the scene, along with some of the stereo equipment taken from the vehicle.
Johnson said surveillance film from the Mazatzal Casino show the suspect's bike being ridden off the Beeline Highway onto the reservation. Security video from Circle K South shows a small, Hispanic male coming into the store about five minutes prior to the time the bike was seen on the casino tape. Johnson said he appears to have waited until customers had left the store, then took a single book of matches.
One of the police officers recognized the individual as a 16-year-old male, with whom the police had previous dealings.
Johnson said the suspect juvenile was located and questioned.
The suspect said he was asked to set the truck on fire by adults from the reservation and was paid $500 to do it, the detective said.
The juvenile was arrested and placed in the Globe juvenile detention facility. He is charged with arson, burglary and theft. The FBI is dealing with the adults named by the juvenile.
In other activity:
- The LaForge tow truck stolen from Express Gas was recovered March 25. It was found at a Wal-Mart parking lot at 38th and Thomas in the Valley. It had been there a couple of days, according to reports given to Payson police. It appeared to have no damage, police said. The police department is seeking a warrant for the clerk suspected of taking the truck, plus cash from the register at the Express Gas station.
- The Payson Police Department executed a search warrant at a residence in the 300 block of East Phoenix Street at about 6:40 a.m., Saturday, March 29 and took two adults into custody. Harvey John James, 40, of Payson, was arrested for possession of drug paraphernalia and possession of marijuana. Diana Lee Moreno, 45, of Payson, was arrested for possession of drug paraphernalia.
Police Lt. Don Engler said the search warrant was the result of an eight-month investigation. The investigation and the service involved 12 officers, he said.