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Kermitt J. Brooks    Acting Superintendent of Insurance    25 Beaver Street  New York, N.Y. 10004

ISSUED 8/14/2009 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

ONEONTA MAN ARRESTED ON CHARGES THAT HE SET HOME ABLAZE

Oneonta police on Friday arrested the owner of a home heavily damaged in a July 23 fire and accused him of setting the blaze which led to the injury of two firefighters.

Donald R. Kropp, 33, was arraigned Friday afternoon before Oneonta City Court Judge Walter Terry following his arrest by Oneonta Police Sgt. Andrew Barber, assisted by Mark Howard, an investigator with the New York State Insurance Department’s Frauds Bureau.

Following his arraignment, Kropp was remanded to the Otsego Correctional Facility in lieu of $10,000 bail. He is scheduled to return for another court appearance on Monday.

Kropp was charged with third degree arson, second degree insurance fraud, two counts of second degree assault and first degree reckless endangerment. The charges are all felonies. The two counts of assault stem from the fact that two firefighters were injured.

If he is convicted, Kropp could be sentenced to up to 15 years in prison on the most serious charges.

Kropp’s arrest followed a two-week investigation into the blaze that heavily damaged the two-story frame structure where he lived with his wife and three children.

Oneonta Fire Chief Robert Barnes said fire investigators determined the fire was incendiary in nature. One of the two firefighters who were injured while fighting the blaze, Barnes said the fire was started in a first floor room that was being used as a bedroom.

The investigation was led by Sgt. Barber, under the direction of Lt. Dennis Nayor, along with Howard, and Insurance Department Frauds Bureau investigators Sean Ralph and Chris Lehenbauer. The fire investigators, working under the direction of Chief Barnes, were Capt. Pat Pidgeon and Firefighters Mike Mancini, Tim Maloney and Brad Smith. They were assisted by a private investigator from New York Central Mutual Insurance Company, which insured the home.

Located on Susquehanna Street, the home was insured for more than $500,000. Kropp filed an insurance claim for his losses following the fire, but the claim was never paid.

No one was home when the fire was discovered by a neighbor who contacted the fire department at approximately 5:45 p.m. An estimated 75 firefighters from Oneonta and surrounding departments fought the blaze in the two-story home.

The structure sustained significant smoke, water and fire damage. Most of the damage reportedly occurred on the first floor of the house. The structure contained an unoccupied rental apartment.

The case is being prosecuted by the office of District Attorney John Muehl.

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