LATEST: Bail set at $550,000 for ‘serial arsonist’ accused in RV fires


Lake Worth man arrested in South Carolina after he allegedly set fire to multiple RVs in Riviera Beach was ordered held Thursday in lieu of $550,000 bail.

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

RELATED PBSO to file charges against driver in hit-and-run that killed woman, 76

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.

RELATED PBSO deputy facing child-porn charges had home searched for marijuana

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.



Next Up in Local

California barber criticized for hanging doll of Colin Kaepernick from noose in shop
California barber criticized for hanging doll of Colin Kaepernick from noose in shop

A Northern California barbershop owner apologized Friday and said he has received death threats after a photograph of a hanging doll in his shop portraying former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick was posted on social media, the Sacramento Bee reported Friday. >> Read more trending news  The photograph was taken inside the Bowtie Barbershop...
Ex-judge’s wife Betsy Savitt kicked off county’s guardianship registry
Ex-judge’s wife Betsy Savitt kicked off county’s guardianship registry

It’s on a loop that runs in James Vassallo’s mind. He repeats it every time he is asked about court-appointed professional guardian Elizabeth Savitt. When he confronted Savitt over her billing practices, over the care of his incapacitated father, over the depleting of his father’s estate as her cadre of lawyers fought him through...
Alabama boy, 13, found naked and chained in home
Alabama boy, 13, found naked and chained in home

A woman, her husband and her mother were arrested on child abuse charges Thursday after a 13-year-old boy was found naked and chained in a central Alabama home, AL.com reported. >> Read more trending news  Nicole Martin, 32, Joshua Daniel Martin, 26, and Vickie Seale Higginbottom, 58, were charged with torture and willful abuse of a...
Going bananas: Texas agents find $18M worth of cocaine in pallets of fruit
Going bananas: Texas agents find $18M worth of cocaine in pallets of fruit

Pallets of bananas that went unclaimed at port near Houston yielded a bunch of cocaine worth nearly $18 million, KHOU reported. >> Read more trending news  A business in Freeport, Texas, offered two pallets of the fruit to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice because they had not been claimed at the Ports of America, the television...
Sororities at George Mason University reject woman with Down syndrome
Sororities at George Mason University reject woman with Down syndrome

An Indiana woman with Down syndrome was not accepted to any sororities at George Mason University because of her disability, her sister claimed. >> Read more trending news  AnnCatherine Heigl, a sophomore from Zionsville, was the first person from Indiana to be accepted to the university’s LIFE program -- a full-time program for people...
More Stories