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October 22, 2014

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Federal charges filed in April fire at facility for children with autism

Autism Arson

Evidence of arson is seen at the Sport Social facility, Wednesday, April 17, 2013. Launch slideshow »

A Las Vegas man accused of setting fire to a local children's autism learning facility in April now faces federal charges.

Samuel Powers, 24, was charged with two felony counts – one for arson and one for possession of unregistered firearms (Molotov cocktails) – according to an announcement Friday by Daniel Bogden, U.S. Attorney for the District of Nevada.

Powers pleaded not guilty to both counts during his initial appearance before Magistrate Judge Carl Hoffman, who accepted his plea. Powers was detained as a "flight risk and danger to the community" until his trial hearing on July 23, before U.S. District Judge Gloria Navarro.

The federal indictment alleges that Powers damaged and attempted to destroy the Sport-Social facility at 7055 Windy St., near Warm Springs Road and Las Vegas Boulevard, on April 15.

A Metro Police investigation at the time found the following:

Powers works for Lovaas Center for Behavior Intervention, which is a competition business with Sport-Social, a facility that teaches social skills to children with autism through sports and art.

After responding to fire alarms, Clark County firefighters noticed Powers walking out of Sport-Social's broken front door carrying a five-gallon plastic fueled container. His left hand had second-degree burns.

Inside the building, the sprinklers had already doused the flames, which appeared to have come from multiple points of origin. Fire investigators determined that someone lit combustibles and ignitable liquids at various locations inside the facility causing the fire.

Metro Police arrested Powers on charges of burglary and first-degree arson. Powers told police he saw smoke billowing from the Sport-Social building and went inside to investigate the fire. He denied having a fuel container in hand.

The fire is estimated to have caused about $50,000 in damage to the startup facility, mostly from charred walls and water damage from the sprinkler systems.

The case is now being investigated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Metropolitan Police and the Clark County Fire Department. U.S. Attorney Christina M. Brown is the lead prosecutor.

If convicted, Powers faces five to 20 years on the arson charge, and up to 10 years on the unregistered firearms charge. He also faces fines of up to $250,000 on each charge.

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