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BREAKING NEWS: Two charged in 4-year-old arson case

Mt. Juliet News Managing Editor Laurie Everett • Updated Jul 29, 2013 at 9:12 AM

MT. JULIET – Police charged two men Thursday afternoon with burning down a newly built Mt. Juliet home in 2009.

Public Information Officer Tyler Chandler said John Fisher, 34, of Nashville, and Steven Mellides, 50, of Massapequa, N.Y., were arrested on federal arrest warrants for burning down a $500,000 home at 2004 Lynn Haven Court on Dec. 12, 2009.

On May 15, a federal grand jury returned a four-count indictment charging Fisher and Mellides with conspiracy, two-counts of mail fraud and arson, according to Chandler. Chandler said the indictment alleges a fire destroyed a newly constructed home built and owned by Mellides. He said Mellides hired Fisher to do construction work and manual labor on the property.

The indictment alleges the suspects conspired to burn down the house to collect insurance money from State Farm and Casualty Co., Chandler said. He said the indictment also alleges the two men "knowingly made false statements to the insurance company regarding the cause and origin of the fire and the personal property that was destroyed by the fire."

Investigators in both New York and Nashville executed federal arrest warrants on Fisher and Mellides on Thursday at about 6:30 p.m. Officers arrested Fisher at a home on Crosswood Drive in Nashville with assistance from the Metro-Nashville Police Department's Hermitage Flex-Unit. Chandler said while serving the warrant, police found a marijuana growing operation with 158 live marijuana plants on the property. According to Chandler, detectives found 103 plants in his garage and 55 more in a greehouse. He said Metro Police named Fisher in arrest warrants for manufacturing marijuana and possession of marijuana for resale.

Officers arrested Mellides in Massapequa, N.Y. without incident. Arson damages are estimated at $585,451, said Chandler.

"These arrests indicate the collaborative effort by federal, state and local authorities realizing arson is a crime of violence and placing innocent people's lives and property in harm's way," said ATF Special Agent in Charge Jeff Fulton. "ATF's Frontline strategy utilizes every available resource to make our communities a safer place to live."

Chandler said if convicted of arson, Fisher and Mellides face a minimum statutory penalty of 10 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and three years of supervised release. The mail and wire fraud accounts carry a potential penalty of up to 20 years in prison, $250,000 fine and three years of supervised release.

"The charges are only allegations," said Chandler. "The defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt."

Police Chief James Hambrick said he was "grateful this case has finally been resolved."

"The assistance of our state and federal partners has been tremendous, and our community greatly appreciates the help from their hard-working, dedicated agents," said Hambrick.

Mt. Juliet police, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and the Tennessee Bomb and Arson Departments investigated the case. Assistant U.S. Attorney Scarlett Singleton will prosecute the case.

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