Clay (WSYR-TV) -- Two men are charged with arson in connection with a fire that caused an estimated half-a-million dollars in damage at an apartment complex in Clay.
Robert Swartz of Colorado is in jail, accusing his friend Chris Deverso of hatching a plot for insurance money.
Both men were arraigned in Town of Clay court Tuesday night.
On July 3, crews were called to a large fire that destroyed a 40-bay garage at the Norstar apartment complex. According to affidavits filed in court, 40-year-old Robert Swartz told investigators he had just poured gas in one unit and lit the fire intentionally. Deputies say Swartz suffered burns to 40 percent of his body in the fire and was sent to the hospital. He appeared in court with bandages covering his limbs.
Detectives say the fire started in a double unit being leased by 40-year-old Deverso, where he was storing two 1967 Chevrolet Camaros, which were insured for $70,000.
In an affidavit, Swartz told deputies that he and Deverso hoped the plot would lead to a large insurance payout.
“He said he would give me $10,000 for doing it, so I agreed to do it for him. He gave me the key code to his garage and told me where the gas was,” Swartz stated in a signed affidavit.
Deverso, who is now charged with arson, conspiracy and insurance fraud, insists he was not involved.
Deverso told NewsChannel 9’s Tammy Palmer that he was set up because of jealousy and envy. He said, “Apparently, some people think I haven’t been through enough and think I should have to suffer more.”
Deverso says this is the second worse thing that has happened in his life; the first being the death of his daughter Victoria, who was killed in a drunk driving crash back in 2010
. Prior to that, he was in a fight with the DEC for keeping an invasive pet species – a snakehead fish that he was told he could not legally own in Central New York.
Not guilty pleas were entered for both men. Deverso’s bail is set at $50,000 cash or $100,000 bond. Swartz’s bail was set higher at $100,000 cash or $250,000 bond because he lives in Colorado and has prior offenses. He told the judge he believes he is already wanted in New York State on a DWI charge from several years ago.