A Freeburg man who captured a pair of serial arsonists at gunpoint is crying foul after he did not get what he believed was going to be a $10,000 reward.
In May, Nate Marlen spent two nights camped out with a rifle after unsuccessful attempts to burn an outbuilding near his property. He said a $10,000 reward was offered for assistance in bringing the arsonists to justice.
"I called about the reward and they said I had to wait until they're convicted," Marlen said. "So I waited and they pled guilty to nine felonies each. Then they said I had to wait until they were sentenced. I waited for the sentencing and that's when I started pushing for the reward.
"They basically told me you're getting $1,000 and that's it," Marlen. "I got a check Monday and I'm not going cash it. There was an open-ended contract and I fulfilled it. Now they're reneging on it."
St. Clair County Sheriff's Department spokesman Capt. Steve Johnson said the amount of the award was erroneously distributed to various media outlets after a representative from the State Fire Marshal's Office stated incorrectly that a reward of up to $10,000 was available through Illinois Fair Plan.
Actually, Illinois Fair Plan has a total budget of $10,000 from which it offers cash awards usually of $1,000 or less to do-gooders who help catch arsonists.
Gordon Balsano, claims manager for Illinois Fair Plan, said he is perplexed by the situation.
"I understand that when you think you're going to get $10,000 and you get $1,000 you might be upset. But we just don't have that kind of money, and we never promised $10,000 to anyone."
Posters displayed in the Freeburg area stated, "The $10,000 Illinois Arson Award Program, funded by the Illinois Fair Plan, monitored by the Governor's Arson Advisory Board, will pay for information which may prevent an arson, or lead to the arrest of an arsonist."
Balsano said his organization, a small insurance company that writes policies in high crime areas and other places where other insurers don't like to do business, had already used up its $10,000 budget for the year when it found out about Marlen's deed. So its board called a special meeting during which it authorized a $1,000 payment for Marlen.
"I have never had any individual act any other way than thankful," Balsano said. "I was totally taken aback that Mr. Marlen was upset that he wasn't getting more."
Marlen said he believes he deserves the award because he risked his life to capture the men, Bryan Boide, 23, of 418 Union Ave. in Belleville; and Nicholas Haegele, 19, of 123 Red Pine Ave. in O'Fallon.
The suspects were armed with a knife, according to Marlen. When he caught them trying a second time to burn his building, he marched them at gunpoint to a neighbor's house. Marlen guarded the suspects until deputies arrived.
Contact reporter Scott Wuerz at email@example.com or call 239-2626.