A former Casper firefighter burned his own house two years ago to collect more than $250,000 in insurance payments, and now potentially faces decades behind bars for the alleged crimes, according to federal court records.

A tearful Patrick Bennett appeared Friday in U.S. District Court in Casper to hear the charges against him as several firefighters sat and watched.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael Shickich told Bennett he was charged with one count of mail fraud, one count of wire fraud, and use of fire to commit wire fraud and use of fire to commit mail fraud.

If Bennett is convicted of all four counts, he would receive at least 10 years for the first count of use of fire and 20 years for second count of use of fire. His maximum sentence could be 70 years.

If convicted on one or more of these counts, Bennett also must forfeit any property related to the proceeds from the crimes.

According to the indictment, Bennett was deeply in debt in early 2012 for his house at 1460 Glenaire Drive, his Toyota pickup, credit cards and other obligations.

K2 Radio reported an explosion occurred at the house about 2 a.m. July 23.

After the fire, he 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 to Wells Fargo Financial for the house and to Toyota Finance Co. for the pickup.

A second defendant, Nicolas Counts, assisted Bennett with the fire and the insurance claims. Authorities have not yet taken Counts into custody.

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

Bennett remains in custody. He will appear before Chief U.S. District Court Judge Nancy Freudenthal on Wednesday for a detention hearing.