For Immediate Release
Waukesha Bar Owner Found Guilty of Arson of Commercial Building and Related Charges
United States Attorney Matthew D. Krueger announced that on February 27, 2020, a jury found Brian Whitton of Waukesha, Wisconsin, guilty of arson of a commercial business, mail fraud, use of fire to commit another felony offense, and making a false statement to federal law enforcement agent. After a four-day trial before the Honorable William C. Griesbach, Whitton was found guilty of intentionally setting fire to his business, a bar called “The Stage Off Main,” on March 25, 2017. The bar was located at 854 Martin Street in Waukesha, Wisconsin.
At the time of the fire, the building housed both Whitton’s bar and an occupied rental unit. Whitton was also convicted of executing a mail fraud scheme premised upon his submission of a fraudulent, sworn proof of loss claim to his insurance carrier, United States Liability Insurance Company, LLC, in which falsely claimed that the fire was the result of an accident. Finally, the jury found Whitton guilty of lying to an agent of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (“ATF”) during the course of the investigation.
The United States Attorney commented, “Arson is an extremely dangerous crime that puts the lives of the public and first responders in danger. This conviction is a testament to the strong partnership between ATF, the Waukesha Police and Fire Departments, and the United States Attorney’s Office. Together with our law enforcement partners, the United States Attorney’s Office is committed to utilizing all available resources to bring dangerous arsonists like Brian Whitton to justice.”
Whitton is scheduled to be sentenced on May 8, 2020. He faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 5 years’ imprisonment for the arson conviction, to be followed by a consecutive, mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years’ imprisonment for the use of fire to commit another felony conviction. The maximum penalty for the mail fraud conviction is 20 years in prison, a $250,000 fine, and a term of supervised release. Whitton also faces up to 5 years’ imprisonment, a $250,000 fine, and a term of supervised release for the false statement conviction.
The successful prosecution of Whitton was the direct result of a lengthy investigation conducted by ATF, the Waukesha Police Department and the Waukesha Fire Department. The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Kelly B. Watzka and Timothy W. Funnell.