Crime: Arson in Connecticut
A Historical Vignette
by Tom Parquette
Part Two of Three - The Backstory
(Begin with Part One HERE)
Charles Moeller regularly discussed his business dealings and problems with David Bubar, who, by both of their admissions was Moeller's friend, psychic, spiritual advisor and consultant. Actually Bubar was a misplaced, ordained Baptist minister from Memphis. According to Court briefs available surrounding the various trials, both criminal, civil and appelate Bubar, at Moeller's request, set out to arrange the arson destruction of Sponge Rubber Products. Since closing Sponge Rubber Products would mean Moeller would have to come up with $13.8 million through Grand Sheet to pay off the debt, thus saddling his other holdings with the load, arson was an interesting concept, especially with over $60 million in insurance on the line.
City of Shelton photo
Many meetings were documented to take place in a variety of locations to pull together the arson team. This included meetings in elevators, rest rooms and restaurants from Connecticut to New York. The chauffeur driven limo of Sponge Rubber Products was used to ferry the arsonists in to visit the plant which they would eventually fire bomb. Moeller, it was proven, flew to New York to hand deliver a $20,000 payment to David Bubar. Of course, Moeller claimed it was payment for other services including, in various testimony by Moeller, watertreatment services, payment for Mr. Bubar's psychic services, a loan to Bubar, a gift to Bubar and payment as a water saving expert to Bubar. Take your pick. Moeller did.
On February 26, 1975 Bubar arranged to have lime delivered to the plant on a truck. The 'lime' was contained in fibre barrels. The same type of fibre barrel which Bubar would use to load in the gasoline for the arson on March 1. This almost backfired though when the guards turned the truck away saying they already had more lime than they could use. Bubar intervened and the truck got into the plant. Bubar later managed to get the arsonists into the building under a ruse that they were doing a telephone survey. But, on that day, employees were conducting a Saturday month-end inventory and spooked the arsonists by their presence. Bubar delayed, the employees left the plant, the truck was unloaded and the 25 barrels of gasoline were distributed throughout the plant. The arsonists set the dynamite and detonating cord in place. Bubar then left separately to pick up three additional arsonists and smuggle them into the plant by hiding them behind the seat of the company car he was using. These three became the kidnappers.
The three arsonists hiding in the plant kidnapped and secured the guards and the boilerman, set up the timing on the explosives, made sure everything was ready and then left the plant with their captives. Plant Four exploded at 11:35 pm March 1, 1975, as planned. The arsonists, minus Bubar who had left for LaGuardia Airport, drove their captives to an adjoining town and tied them up. The FBI was involved due to bluster by the arsonists regarding the Weathermen group. But later information from the FBI at trial indicated they (the FBI) didn't believe there was any Weatherman connection to the fire starters. Just bluster and last minute bull as a mindless cover for the captives.
City of Shelton photo
According to Court records, A total of $60,000 was to have been paid to the arsonists for the event. Apparently Moeller stiffed his own crooks out of $20 grand, because forensic accountants could only track $40 thousand being paid. The forensic accounting firm of Campos & Stratis was retained to perform one of the most ambitious forensic accounting investigations in history. The proof seemed clear. Ten people went on trial in criminal court on charges of arson in the Sponge Rubber Products Company fire. Eight Pennsylvania men, Psychic shill David Bubar and Charles D. Moeller. The trial lasted nineteen weeks. Moeller was acquited in the 1976 trial in U.S. District Court. One of the eight pleaded no contest and received no sentence. Seven of the perpetrators were sentenced for various terms ultimately serving from four to seven years. Bubar was sentenced to 20 years and served seven. State authorities later charged Moeller, in 1983, under Connecticut law. He was tried. He was acquited again, in state court. Since the threshold for guilt or conviction is higher in a criminal case than that in a civil trial, the insurance companies involved pursued Moeller in a civil action for arson. Moeller was found responsible for the torching and explosion of Sponge Rubber Products. This freed the insurance company from paying any of the $60 + million which Grand Sheet and Moeller were trying to collect through years of litigation. Moeller appealed this civil court verdict but the appelate court upheld the verdict against him. In the civil trial, Moeller went on the record through Grand Sheet claiming Bubar, who agreed to testify against Moeller, was mentally disturbed, upset because Moeller was seeing a different psychic and Bubar was chagrined because Moeller refused Bubar's investment advances. Go figure.
The trials of Moeller attest to the resolve of investigators as to his guilt. Picture the O.J. Simpson debacle and you can get a slight glimpse of the pursuit of Moeller. Acquitted in criminal court, "convicted" in a civil action.
City of Shelton Business Development Corp.
Mr. Moeller has continued to operate his various enterprises throughout the years since the Shelton arson which the civil court found him responsible for. Through all of this, another mystery befell Mr. Moeller on August 14, 1976. According to Spencerville Ohio Fire Chief Lyman Mulholand a large barn at Moeller's Ohio cattle ranch together with a large quantity of hay and some sheep were destroyed when a fire of undetermined origin was reported by a relative of Moeller's who had come to check the farm. Apparently Moeller was away at the time of the fire's discovery. Mr. Moeller has maintained a very low profile for an allegedly diverse businessman in that he has refused all interviews, photos or other exposure regardless of his business interests since the Shelton disaster.
Tomorrow: Part Three – The Result
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