JOHNSTOWN - Convicted arsonist Jeffrey Alnutt was sentenced Monday in Fulton County Court to five to 15 years in prison for torching a house as part of an insurance fraud scheme, and his daughter and son-in-law were sentenced to jail time as well, despite their pleas for probation.
Alnutt, who also faces murder and arson charges related to a different Gloversville fire, was convicted in December on all of the 10 counts he faced in connection with a 2004 fire at the 42 Steele Ave. house he owned in Gloversville. The charges included arson, grand larceny, several counts of insurance fraud, reckless endangerment and conspiracy.
Alnutt's daughter, Aubrey Pagan, and son-in-law, Victor Pagan, both 25, were acquitted of arson and second-degree insurance fraud but were found guilty of third-degree insurance fraud, grand larceny, reckless endangerment and conspiracy.
The Leader-Herald/Joel DiTata
Jeffrey Alnutt and his attorney, Gerard Heckler, listen to Fulton County Court Judge Richard Giardino
during Alnutt’s sentencing Monday.
Aubrey Pagan was sentenced Monday to one to three years in prison, while Victor Pagan was sentenced to 1 1/3 to four years in prison. Jurors convicted the trio of conspiring to set fire to the home in order to collect thousands in insurance money.
Alnutt's attorney, Gerard Heckler, said Alnutt was a contributing member of society who has "done a lot of good for this community." Fulton County District Attorney Louise Sira, however, called Alnutt a "professional con artist" who pulled his daughter and son-in-law along for the ride.
Sira said Alnutt's actions caused claim investigations and ultimately will drive up premium costs for the average consumer.
Fulton County Court Judge Richard Giardino agreed that the Pagans were roped into Alnutt's scheme, but he said both had the opportunity to get out.
"[Alnutt] was driving the train," he said. "But you guys did not get off the train."
Alnutt also was ordered to pay more than $200,000 in restitution in the form of a lien against his properties. Victor Pagan was ordered to pay about $6,000 in restitution, and Aubrey Pagan was ordered to pay nearly $18,000.
Giardino called the Pagans' sentencing one of the hardest of his career. He said in the six years since the crime took place, the pair have married, had children and have joined the military. Both said they are attending school. Victor Pagan said he has been deployed to Afghanistan.
The Pagans and their attorneys asked they be spared jail time for the sake of their two young children. Giardino said while he sympathizes with the pair and acknowledges the way they have turned their lives around, the seriousness of the crimes cannot be ignored.
Both asked for a week to arrange care for their children, but Giardino denied it. He said they have both had nearly three months to make preparations for possible jail time.
Giardino added while the pair were drawn into Alnutt's scheme and "drank the Kool-Aid," as Sira put it, neither tried to get out of the scheme. He noted the danger the conspiracy put the firefighters and nearby residents in.
Victor Pagan frowned and shook his head after the sentencing was read, and Aubrey Pagan, who was sitting behind him, put her head in her hands. Aubrey Pagan seemed shocked when her own sentencing was read and pursed her lips as she was handcuffed. One of the Pagans' supporters in the audience cried as Aubrey Pagan was led out.
After the sentencing, Sira said she was pleased with Giardino's decision. She said while the trial "clearly demonstrated Alnutt as the central player," the Pagans could have walked away from the scheme but didn't.
Sira thanked Gloversville Fire Chief Douglas Edwards, who was present at the sentencing, for his department's help in the case. Edwards said he pities the Pagans' children.
"I feel sorry for the kids. They were dragged into this," he said. "Overall, though, I'm very happy with [the sentencing], given the situation and the lives and properties that were put in danger."
Sira said she now will turn her attention toward Alnutt's pending murder trial. Alnutt has been charged with second-degree murder and arson in relation to a 2007 fire at a house he owned at 22 Park St. in Gloversville in which tenant Debra Morris, 39, died while trying to save a cat.
The trial for that case has been scheduled to begin April 26.
Kayleigh Karutis covers Gloversville news. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.