South Carolina Firefighter Accused of Setting Arson to Fix Image

GREENWOOD COUNTY, S.C. --

Deputies say a registered sex offender who wanted to be a firefighter tried an unusual way to improve his reputation, and now he is facing arson charges instead.

A Greenwood County arrest report said that 30-year-old Samuel Thomas Moss set fire to a home on Old Laurens Road in Greenwood on Sept. 27. The home was a total loss.

Investigators said they believe Moss set three fires in the past three weeks.

Greenwood County sheriff's investigator Jeff Graham said ""His motive (was that he) is a registered sex offender. He claims this happened years ago ... and that he was getting a hard time from fellow firefighters because of his status as a sex offender and he felt in his mind if he set the fire and responded to it, it would show he was a good firefighter and hard worker and that would override that he was a sex offender."

Moss volunteered with the Lower Lake Fire Department. Investigators said he was initially identified as a suspect because of his suspicious behavior around the mobile home fire and other recent fires. The police report said Moss was the first to arrive at the fires.

Moss had applied to work as a firefighter, but was rejected because he is listed in the state's sexual offenders registry.

The Greenwood County Sheriff's Office said that Moss confessed to setting the Old Laurens Road fire during a voluntary interview with investigators.

Graham said, "After being advised of his Miranda rights, he gave a full confession. This started three weeks ago, escalating (with) every fire he started -- from grass, to the barn, to unoccupied residence. Luckily he was stopped, arrested put in jail before it escalated even further"

The other incidents in which Moss is a suspect are still being investigated. He is accused of burning a barn on Highway 702/Old Brickyard Road on Sept. 26, and of setting a grass fire along Siloam Church Road on Sept. 10. Investigators said that Moss responded as a firefighter at both fires.

Moss is charged with third-degree arson and willfully burning lands.

His bond is set at $50,000 cash or surety. Moss faces up to 25 years in prison if convicted.

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