Moss Point man once connected to paramilitary group sentenced in arson


PASCAGOULA -- A Moss Point man identified at one time as a member of a Christian paramilitary group has been sentenced to a total of 15 years in prison, with five years to serve, for setting fire to a construction business in Pascagoula.

Michael Schaffran, 36, pleaded guilty to second-degree arson and conspiracy to commit arson. Circuit Judge Kathy King Jackson has sentenced him to 10 years on the conspiracy charge to run concurrently to a five-year sentence for arson. He's scheduled to serve an additional five years under post-release supervision and pay a total of $1,500 in fines.

Schaffran was arrested along with Michael Eugene Slater, a Jackson County resident and the owner of the targeted business, M.E. Slater Construction on Chicot Street.

The December fire caused $175,000 in damage.

As part of his plea, Schaffran admitted trying to make it like look a burglary by breaking into the business. He said paint stripper and mineral spirits were used to ignite the blaze.

Slater, also indicted on arson and conspiracy charges, has pleaded not guilty. He is set to go to trial Nov. 4.

Pascagoula police and fire along with the state fire marshal's office investigated the case.

Schaffran was identified as a member of a paramilitary group after his arrest in Gautier in December 2011 during a home invasion investigation resulting in multiple arrests.

Gautier police said then Schaffran was known as the "commander" of the paramilitary group of teenagers that called itself "The Savior Unit" or "The Tactical Unit."

The group's manual said its goal was to "promote Christ, obtain offenders who are a danger to society, do community service work for churches and halfway houses, and do security for different functions." Police said the training included Scripture readings, reconnaissance, hand-to-hand combat and paramilitary operations.

Though Schaffran and another supect were arrested on kidnapping and burglary charges in the home invasion invesigation, they were never prosecuted on felony charges.