GREENVILLE – A jury of eight women and four men deliberated for about seven hours before returning a a guilty verdict in Darke County Common Pleas Court Wednesday for a Greenville man charged with arson.
Tony Bandedo, 39, of Greenville, was charged with third-degree felony arson, accused of hiring someone to steal his 2012 Toyota Camry and destroy it by fire in order that he may collect the insurance money.
Bandedo testified in his own defense Tuesday, the second day of his jury trial. He denied claims that a recording of him made by a confidential informant had amounted to a confession of the crime.
The Darke County Sheriff’s Office was called to the scene of a vehicle fire Dec. 8, 2013, where the car was found fully engulfed in flames in the northbound lane of travel. Upon investigation, authorities determined the registered owner of the car was Bandedo. They contacted his home, and his then-wife then contacted him at work.
Bandedo said he told the authorities that his car was parked behind the building at El Camino Real restaurant, where he worked as manager. He testified that he went outside to look, and he discovered that his car was indeed missing.
Bandedo said he habitually locked his vehicle using his electronic key fob, and the keys were still in his jacket in the restaurant. A forensic locksmith determined during the course of the investigation that the valet key had been used to operate the vehicle when it was set on fire. Bandedo testified that the valet key had been left in the unlocked glove box of the vehicle since its purchase.
The confidential informant purported to be a friend of Bandedo’s and said he went to the lead detective on the case to turn in Bandedo because it was the right thing to do. The informant testified that Bandedo had first offered him $300 to steal and burn the car. He said he later learned from the newspaper reports that the car had been burned, and in the course of conversations with Bandedo, he believed he could report who had been hired instead.
Defense attorney Daniel O’Brien repeatedly stressed to the jury that the informant was not to be trusted, both because of his own criminal history but also his motivation in seeking a $5,000 reward in the case.
Bandedo was indicted following an 18-month investigation of the crime, during which State Farm also denied the insurance claim.
A third-degree felony in the state of Ohio has a maximum sentence range of nine months to five years in prison and a maximum fine of $10,000.