Christopher Vaughn Schlax, a 48-year-old resident of Grandview, Washington, has been handed a 5 year prison sentence after pleading guilty to three counts of Damage by Fire to a Building or Personal Property Used in Interstate and Foreign Commerce. The sentencing was announced by Vanessa R. Waldref, the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington. Chief United States District Judge Stanley A. Bastian delivered the sentence, which also includes 3 years of supervised release. 

Criminal Activities Unveiled 

Court documents and information provided during the sentencing revealed that Schlax was involved in a series of criminal activities on June 27, 2022. Following a string of burglaries, Schlax and an alleged accomplice targeted the Lineage Logistics warehouse in Grandview, Washington. In an attempt to divert attention from their crimes, Schlax set fire to a pallet storage area at the warehouse, resulting in property damage totaling $423,654 and posing a significant risk to responding firefighters. 

Escalating Damage 

Schlax's criminal spree continued into the early hours of July 4, 2022, when he and his alleged accomplice planned to burglarize the Dollar Tree store in Grandview. To create a diversion, they first drove to the fruit bin lot of River Valley Fruit, where Schlax ignited a fire causing over $1.5 million in property damage. Subsequently, Schlax used a cutting torch to break into a safe at the Dollar Tree store, triggering another fire that inflicted over $1.8 million in damage to the building and property. 

Community Safety at Stake 

In response to Schlax's actions, U.S. Attorney Waldref condemned his disregard for public safety, stating, "Mr. Schlax not only committed burglaries but then, to cover up his crimes, he started fires that endangered firefighters, law enforcement, and members of the community. The fires started by Mr. Schlax also caused millions of dollars in property damage." 

Law Enforcement Response 

Jonathan Blais, Special Agent in Charge of the ATF Seattle Field Division, emphasized the severity of Schlax's actions, labeling his deliberate fires as "especially cruel" due to the danger posed to first responders and the community at large. 

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Legal Proceeding 

The case was investigated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Courtney Pratten and former AUSA Frances Walker. Schlax's alleged accomplice, who has entered a not guilty plea, awaits trial after being indicted on charges of Damage by Fire to a Building or Personal Property Used in Interstate and Foreign Commerce. 

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