Like the plot out of a TV crime drama, investigators allege that a Northampton County man more than five years ago hired someone for $5,000 to burn down a rival business.
Pennsylvania State Police charged Stefan A. Skweir with two counts of arson and one count of criminal solicitation, all felonies, in connection with 2011 fire in the Orefield section of North Whitehall Township. District Judge Michael Faulkner arraigned the 42-year-old Thursday afternoon, setting bail at $100,000.
Authorities were called to 3752 Route 309 shortly before 2 a.m. Sept. 14, 2011, for a fire at AD Gold Exchange. When state police arrived, they found heavy smoke and fire pouring from a smashed front window. Firefighters had yet to arrive.
Owner Alan Dennis told authorities that he believed Skweir, a competing business owner, had something to do with the fire, according to court records. Dennis alleged he’d been receiving harassing phone calls and emails since opening the store.
Investigators with the state police fire marshal unit said the fire and heat damage was primarily at the front of the store. The front window was smashed inward and display cases were situated in the middle of the room.
Authorities also found a large rock on the floor just beyond the display cases and the remnants of a red plastic gasoline can. The area damaged by fire was centered on the counter area and samples tested positive for an accelerant, according to court records.
Authorities interviewed former employees of ANS Coins, who all provided information that Skweir had a hand in the fire. The investigation revealed that he paid someone $5,000 to break into AD Gold Exchange and set the fire, according to state police.
Police said there’s also evidence Skweir “continually harassed” the owner and employees of AD Gold Exchange.
Court records indicate that state police asked that the arrest warrant be sealed over concerns about the safety of witnesses and witness tampering.
Skweir failed to post bail and was sent to Lehigh County Jail. His next court is a preliminary hearing tentatively set for Sept. 22.