For Immediate Release
Media Contact: Bob Cooper
Date: February 17, 2012
Matthew Sargent Sentenced for Conspiracy to Commit Arson
(Boise) – A Teton County man who hired a neighbor to burn down his parent’s home in order to collect insurance money was sentenced yesterday to one and one-half years to 12 years in prison, Attorney General Lawrence Wasden said today. In addition to the prison term, Seventh District Judge Dane Watkins, Jr. also ordered Matthew J. Sargent to pay a $1,000 fine. The judge will determine the restitution amount at a later date.
Sargent, 24, pleaded guilty on December 16, 2011, to conspiracy to commit first-degree arson.
Last April, Sargent hired Terry Eck, a neighbor and family friend, to burn down Sargent’s parents’ home, just north of Tetonia. Sargent promised that he would give Eck a pick-up truck and $12,000 from the insurance proceeds if Eck would set the house on fire. Eck admitted to investigators that he set fire to the Sargents’ home on April 14. Eck will be charged with the crime of malicious injury to property, a misdemeanor.
Sargent hoped that by burning down the house, his parents could submit an insurance claim for fire damage, allowing them to avoid further mortgage payments on their house. Sargent further believed that he could assume ownership of the surrounding property without assuming the mortgage payments associated with the house.
A joint investigation by the Teton County Sheriff’s Office, Teton County Fire Protection District, Idaho Department of Insurance and the Office of Attorney General led to the charges against Sargent.
Deputy Attorney General Ken Robins prosecuted the case at the request of Teton County Prosecuting Attorney Kathy Spitzer, who also assisted in the prosecution.
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