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CFO Sink: Bartow Man Arrested for Arson; Giant Fire Caused at Least $22-million in Damages

3/14/2008

Bartow firefighters spent four days on site extinguishing flair-ups
 
BARTOW – Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink today announced the arrest of a Polk County man who allegedly set fire to a manufacturing plant, destroying the building, causing more than $22 million in damages and leaving 309 employees out of work for approximately three months.
 
Efrain “Frankie” Castro, 23, was arrested Thursday in Lakes Wales on charges of first degree arson. Castro could face up to 30 years in prison if convicted.
 
“The criminal who set this fire callously risked hundreds of peoples’ lives,” said CFO Sink.  “We are very fortunate that no one was injured, and I commend the local and state officials who worked diligently for several months to get to the bottom of this case.”
 
Thursday’s arrest follows a seven-month investigation by the State Fire Marshal Bureau of Fire and Arson into allegations Castro set fire to Flanders PrecisionAire Factory in Bartow.  Set July 10, 2007, it took local firefighters four days to fully extinguish the fire and is believed to have originated from the ignition of stock boxes located on the side of the building.  At the time of the fire, 153 employees were working.
 
The Bureau of Fire and Arson Investigations is a law enforcement branch of the Division of State Fire Marshal that assists other state and local fire and law enforcement agencies in the investigation of fires of suspicious origin.  Anyone with information about this case or any incident of fire is asked to call 1-877-662-7766 (1-877-NOARSON). 
 
As a statewide elected officer of the Florida Cabinet, Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink oversees the Department of Financial Services, a multi-division state agency responsible for management of state funds and unclaimed property, assisting consumers who request information and help related to financial services, and investigating financial fraud. CFO Sink also serves as the State Fire Marshal.