Man pleads guilty to fiery
vandalism of rival firms

William Nelson is accused of
setting fire to trucks and toilets

By Debra Barayuga

A man has pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court to conspiracy and setting fire to commercial rental trucks and portable toilets to eliminate the competition.

William "Bulla" Nelson was one of five people indicted in July 2001 in a fire-for-hire scheme that took place between 1996 and 1999.

Nelson pleaded guilty yesterday before U.S. District Judge Susan Mollway to two counts of conspiracy, two of setting fire to trucks and one of setting fire to portable toilets.

The indictment had charged Nelson and a co-conspirator to setting fire to trucks at Penske Truck Leasing Co. at Puuhale Road and North Nimitz Highway in January and February 1999. Eleven commercial trucks, including flatbeds and vans, were destroyed or damaged in the fires.

One of the charges stemmed from torching 46 portable toilets in February 1999 that were being used at the Aloha Stadium.

He faces a maximum 20 years' imprisonment on each count and a maximum fine of $250,000 when sentenced Nov. 25.

Federal authorities have not given the names of all the victimized companies and the competing companies for which the arson was allegedly committed.

Nelson did not say how much money he was paid, but the indictment alleged the men were to receive $1,000 per burned truck.

Had the case gone to trial, a cooperating witness who was not identified would have testified that Nelson approached him in January 1999 asking if he wanted to earn money and that it involved torching trucks, according to assistant U.S. Attorney Marshall Silverberg.

Nelson said yesterday he threw gasoline on the trucks and the toilets before setting them afire.

The witness was arrested at the scene of the second truck fire, but Nelson managed to escape, Silverberg said. The witness later cooperated with the government by taping telephone and face-to-face conversations he had with Nelson.

Charges against co-defendants George Grace III -- who owned Paradise Lua -- Joseph Mangca, Keoki Medeiros and Scott Silva have since been dismissed in the last three months. Their attorneys could not be reached for comment. Silverberg declined comment on the dismissals.

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