Mark Bruck was found guilty of all seven charges of arson, fraud and other federal offenses relating to a March 5, 1994, fire that destroyed an Advance Resins Corp. warehouse in Chico-pee, Mass. Bruck, found guilty Dec. 15 after a seven-day trial, will be sentenced March 1, the U.S. Attorney's office in Springfield, Mass., reported. His wife, Karen Bruck, pleaded guilty Sept. 28 to conspiracy to commit bank fraud and was scheduled to be sentenced Dec. 28.
Michael Bouchard, a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms case officer, said in a telephone interview that Karen Bruck was not called to testify against her husband. He confirmed that Mark Bruck, owner of the defunct plastics compounding operation, faces maximum penalties of 115 years in prison and $1.75 million in fines.
Chicopee Fire Department officials confirmed a newspaper report that Bruck was ordered held without bail after he posted an anti-ATF sign on his vehicle parked where jurors could see it. The sign said, ``Don't let the ATF take another life.'' In an early 1995 interview with Plastics News, Bruck alleged the ATF was leading a conspiracy to ruin him.
Evidence at the trial established that Bruck intentionally set fire to a warehouse containing used equipment and plastic inventory to defraud MassWest Insurance Co. Bruck increased the property's insurance coverage by $1.9 million about a week before the fire and had employees move equipment and plastic into the warehouse before the fire, according to the in-dictment. He then had employees inflate the value of inventory destroyed in the fire and to convey the false information to an insurance adjustor.
Prosecutors also presented evidence that the Brucks engaged in bank fraud from 1986-1994 by inflating inventory values and recording fictitious sales in order to get Bank of New England loans for which Advance Resins did not qualify.
Mark Bruck testified that other employees, including his wife and mother-in-law, caused his downfall. His lawyer, Thomas Murray, said Bruck's mother-in-law Rose Bryla, and other employees, ``cooked the books'' to save their jobs. An ATF official testified that Advance Resins owed nearly $800,000 to vendors before the fire.
Bruck's lawyer could not be reached to comment on whether his client plans to appeal the convictions.
Advance Resins and sister company Westover Color & Chemical Corp. filed for reorganization under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code in April 1994. The firms' assets were auctioned in August 1995.