Owner of Pascagoula construction company gets prison in arson case

Michael Eugene Slater
Michael Eugene Slater

PASCAGOULA -- The owner of a Pascgaoula construction company has been sentenced to five years in prison and one year under post-release supervision for conspiring to set fire to his business.

Michael Eugene Slater, 53, had pleaded guilty in April to conspiracy to commit arson at his business, M.E. Slater Construction, on Chico Street.

Circuit Judge Kathy King Jackson also fined him $1,500 and ordered him to pay $7,500 in restitution.

A grand jury indicted Slater and Michael Schaffran on charges of conspiracy to commit arson and second-degree arson in the December 2014 fire that caused $175,000 in damage to the business.

Schaffran pleaded guilty to conspiracy and second-degree arson and is serving 15-year sentence, with five years in prison and the remainder on post-release supervision.

He told authorities he tried to make it look like a burglary by breaking into the business. He said he used paint stripper and mineral spirits to ignite the blaze.

Pascagoula police and fire departments along with the state Fire Marshal's Office investigated the case.

Authorities identified Schaffran as a one-time member of a paramilitary group after an unrelated arrest in December 2011 during an home-invasion investigation in Gautier.

Gautier police said then Schaffran was known as the "commander" of a 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 then the training included Scripture readings, reconnaissance, hand-to-hand combat and paramilitary operations.

Though Schaffran and another person were arrested on kidnapping and burglary charges in that case, they were never prosecuted.