Benjamin Harris, 54, is facing 10 counts of second-degree arson and also is expected to face federal charges for violating his probation on previous arson convictions. He was booked Wednesday into the Palm Beach County Jail.
This story contains embedded social media content. If you don’t see that content please click here
The U.S. Marshals Service arrested Harris on Aug. 21. He was awaiting extradition at the Colleton County Jail in Walterboro, S.C., about 50 miles west of Charleston.
Harris allegedly set a fire Aug. 5 that destroyed at least eight vehicles at the Waits RV Center in Riviera Beach, just north of Blue Heron Boulevard and east of Interstate 95. The damage is estimated at about $1 million, a prosecutor said at Thursday’s bail hearing at the jail before Circuit Judge Dina Keever-Agrama.
This story contains embedded social media content. If you don’t see that content, please click here.
Before he fled to South Carolina, Harris was employed at Palm Beach RV, a business in suburban West Palm Beach owned by Larry Waits, whose brother, Bill, is the owner of the Waits RV Center.
Harris was seen on surveillance-camera video wearing a Palm Beach RV T-shirt on the night of the alleged arson. The video captures Harris getting out of his parked vehicle with something in his hand, walking into the Waits RV Center lot, then later driving away as several vehicles catch fire.
It remains unknown why Harris targeted the Waits RV Center. Three days after the fire, a state investigator with the Division of the State Fire Marshall met with Harris at Palm Beach RV, according to the report.
Harris said he was drinking all day on the night of the fire and had never left his residence, the report said.
After he was shown the surveillance video, Harris denied it was him and repeatedly asked if he was being arrested. When asked to explain why he started the fires, Harris said he wanted to speak to an attorney.
Before authorities were able to secure an arrest warrant for Harris, he fled.
In 2005, Harris was convicted of setting a chain of fires in northern St. Lucie County — and one in West Palm Beach that destroyed a nightclub — and was sentenced to eight years in federal prison.
In 2007, he was sentenced to 11 years in federal prison for setting 26 fires in New York during 1991 and 1992. That sentence ran concurrently with the eight-year term he received in 2005.
Harris was released from a federal prison in South Carolina on Jan. 19 and ordered to serve three years of probation.
If Harris is able to pay his bail, he will be turned over to federal authorities for the probation violation. Besides imposing a high bail on Harris, Keever-Agrama also ruled he must not have any contact with Waits RV Center.