DENVER (Reuters) - An admitted arsonist known in militant animal-rights circles as “Lone Wolf” was sentenced on Friday to five years in federal prison for setting a fire that destroyed a Colorado sheepskin store.
Walter Edmund Bond pleaded guilty last November to setting the blaze that burned the Sheepskin Factory in suburban Denver to the ground on April 30, 2010.
The business, valued at $500,000, sold sheepskin clothes, shoes, blankets and rugs. The building and its merchandise were a total loss. The owner, Louis Livaditis, was uninsured.
U.S. District Judge Christine Arguello also ordered Bond, who sports a tattoo that reads “VEGAN” on his neck, to pay $1.1 million in restitution to Livaditis.
Jeffrey Dorschner, spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office, said Bond told the judge he would go back to prison before he paid the restitution order.
“Essentially, he said he wouldn’t pay the business a dime,” Dorschner told Reuters.
According to court documents, Bond, 34, boasted on an animal-rights web site that he “torched” the business.
“The arson at the Sheepskin Factory in Denver was done in defense and retaliation for all the innocent animals that have died cruelly at the hands of human oppressors,” Bond wrote on the web site, according to federal prosecutors.
Bond, 34, then signed the posting, “Go vegan! ALF Lone Wolf,” prosecutors said.
ALF is the acronym for the Animal Liberation Front, an underground animal-rights group that has claimed responsibility for numerous acts of sabotage.
Its web site describes Bond as a “dedicated animal rights activist and anarchist,” and solicits donors to put money in Bond’s prison commissary account.
Investigators were led to Bond after an informant told authorities of the web posting and that Bond had bragged about the crime.
In court filings, federal public defender Edward Harris said his client deserved leniency because he had a “horrible childhood,” set the fire in the early morning hours to avoid harming people, and admitted his guilt.
“Mr. Bond, who is still a committed animal rights activist, now believes that the better course of action is to limit his advocacy to speech and writing,” Harris wrote.
U.S. Attorney John Walsh said in a statement following the hearing that Bond was using animal rights causes as “a pretext” for his criminal behavior.
“The evidence in this case demonstrates that he has a history of committing crimes involving fire before he ever began advocating animal rights,” Walsh said.
Bond was convicted in 1997 of second-degree arson in Iowa. A Utah grand jury indicted him last fall for a pair of arson fires that destroyed a restaurant and a leather store in Salt Lake City.
Editing by Dan Whitcomb and Greg McCune