August 9, 1997 in Nation/World

Equipment Leaser Paid Man To Set Big Sur Fire, Fbi Says

Associated Press

A firefighting equipment supplier looking to boost sales paid a man to set a fire that destroyed five homes and burned 25,000 acres not far from Big Sur last October, the FBI said Friday.

Jeffrey Alan Avila, 35, of Bradley, was arrested Thursday after his alleged accomplice confessed, the FBI said.

Avila leased equipment to the U.S. Forest Service to fight fires.

“We believe that the motive for Jeffrey Avila to start the fire was greed,” FBI spokesman George Grotz said.

“He did it so that he could get some money when they fought the fires.”

Avila could get to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine on the arson-for-profit charge. His alleged accomplice, Mark Mansfield, has not been charged.

According to the FBI, Avila paid Mansfield $2,000 to start the fire, which broke out in the Los Padres National Forest about 25 miles south of Big Sur.

Mansfield confessed to sheriff’s deputies after his wife filed a domestic violence complaint in May and told police about the arson, the FBI said.

Mansfield said Avila was with him when he set the fire and had supplied the highway flares that were used to start it. At the FBI’s urging, Mansfield later wore a recording device in a meeting with Avila.

© Copyright 1997 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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