A former Casper firefighter will spend 46 months in prison for wire fraud after burning down his own house in 2012 to collect the insurance money, a federal judge ruled Tuesday.

Patrick Bennett must pay $261,199.69 in restitution, be on three years of supervised release and cooperate with the Internal Revenue Service to resolve tax issues, according to the sentence handed down by Chief U.S. District Court Judge Nancy Freudenthal.

Another count of wire fraud and two counts of use of fire to comment a federal crime and aiding and abetting were dismissed at the sentencing. If Bennett had been found guilty of the use of fire to commit a federal crime, he could have faced a minimum of 30 years behind bars

Bennett and his friend and accomplice, Nicolas Counts, pleaded guilty to the wire fraud count in August.
In October, Counts was sentenced to 60 months imprisonment, minus the 23 months for a total of 37 months to be served at the same time with his sentence in another federal crime.

The case began in early 2012 when Bennett was deep in debt for his house at 1460 Glenaire Drive, his Toyota pickup, credit cards and other obligations, according to court documents.

He also was treasurer of the the local firefighters union and embezzled $15,125.81 of union funds in two withdrawals within eight months of the fire. He transferred those funds to his personal checking account to pay bills.

In the meantime, Counts began removing some of Bennett’s belongings including valuable family heirlooms and moving them to a mutual friend’s home.

Early July 23, 2012, some of Bennett’s neighbors reporting smelling gasoline before the explosion, according to court records. “The explosion was of such magnitude that the house was lifted off its foundation and the ensuing fire destroyed the house and the Toyota truck.”

Within an hour of the call to respond to the fire, Counts arrived at the emergency room of the Wyoming Medical Center with severe burns on his arms, back and legs. He told investigators that he was at Bennett’s house when someone had knocked him unconscious and the house was engulfed in flames when he awoke. However, the treating physician did not see any wound on his head.

Bennett later told Casper police officers that his house appeared to have been ransacked because of the missing items.

After the fire, Bennett filed false claims with his insurance companies and obtained $250,849.49 for the losses on his house and pickup. Portions of that amount were used to pay off debts for the house and pickup, according to court records.

In June, Casper Fire Chief Kenny King said Bennett worked for the department for five years and resigned in December 2012.