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Leith mayor charged with letting house fire get out of control

BISMARCK -- The complaint in an unusual case charging Leith Mayor Ryan Schock with failing to control or report a dangerous fire is based on an investigation conducted by a special agent for the Bureau of Criminal Investigation.

BISMARCK -- The complaint in an unusual case charging Leith Mayor Ryan Schock with failing to control or report a dangerous fire is based on an investigation conducted by a special agent for the Bureau of Criminal Investigation.

The misdemeanor complaint against Schock was filed in South Central District Court in late January, and he is scheduled for a first appearance Feb. 17 before Judge Bruce Haskell.

The complaint alleges that that, on May 24, Schock started a fire on one property in Leith, that the fire spread to an old church building that Schock owned and threatened the next adjoining property owned by Michael Bencz.

The complaint says Schock did not contact any fire department or government agency for help with the out-of-control fire.

“The fire was eventually controlled but not before endangering life or substantial amounts of the property of others, including (Bencz’s property),” the complaint says.

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Schock said the first building was a property that had been purchased by white supremacist Craig Cobb, who entered into a purchase deal with Bencz during the summer of 2013.  It had been condemned for health and nuisance purposes.

Bencz did some improvements to the property, but eventually purchased a different house in Leith, the one on the far side of the church that is said to have been endangered by Schock’s actions.

Schock said he would not comment on the charges. Other condemned properties were burned and leveled in Leith during the same period.

The case is the latest twist in a bizarre story of  Leith, a small town southwest of Bismarck. The saga started with an attempted white supremacist takeover, terrorizing charges against Cobb and his neo-Nazi cohort, intense media attention and most recently, the introduction of a full-length documentary “Welcome to Leith, Know Your Neighbors.” The documentary caused a buzz, but won no awards at last weekend’s Sundance Film Festival.

Bencz has always denied any association with Cobb’s racial politics. He said he was searching for a rural life outside Wisconsin, when he came across the cheap properties that Cobb was selling in Leith.

 

Related Topics: CRIME
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