Former Calif. battalion chief sentenced for theft, arson

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Los Angeles Times

COMPTON, Calif. — A former Compton Fire Department battalion chief was sentenced to three years and four months in prison for selling city-owned radio equipment and starting a fire to conceal the theft, prosecutors said.

Marcel Dione Melanson, 38, was ordered to pay $517,477 in restitution for the 2011 fire; he paid $100,000 before being taken into custody.

He must also register as an arson offender for life, the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office said.

He pleaded no contest in April to charges of felony arson of property and embezzlement by a public official.

The investigation of Melanson started after a fire spread across a racquetball court inside Compton Fire Station No. 1. Inside were about 200 radios valued at more than $1 million.

Investigators from the Long Beach and Montebello fire departments, including the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, determined the fire was caused by arson. Investigators turned their attention to Melanson, who was on duty when the fire broke out and said to be the only employee with access to the radios.

Patrick Willis, an arson investigator with the Long Beach Fire Department, told the court Melanson sought to make the fire look accidental.

An investigation by the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department found that many of the radios were sold to private buyers or on EBay and that Melanson had been selling Compton-owned radio equipment since 2008.

Melanson had served with the fire department for 17 years. He was featured on the BET reality series “First In.”

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