JEFFERSONVILLE - A Kenoza Lake man has been sentenced to five years in prison for starting a fire in 2018 at a Jeffersonville gas station where his wife was working.


Jacques Pluss, 66, is required to serve five years of post-release supervision after his prison term ends, according to an announcement by Acting Sullivan County District Attorney Meagan K. Galligan. In addition, County Court Judge Michael McGuire further entered a money judgment on Friday in favor of the Sunoco Country Store in Jeffersonville for damage caused by Pluss.


In November 2019, Pluss pleaded guilty to second-degree arson, admitting that on Sept. 29, 2018, he intentionally cut a propane line and set fire to the exterior rear of the store while it was occupied by employees, including his wife. Craig Lanese, a regular customer at the gas station, grabbed a fire extinguisher from inside the store and controlled the blaze before the Jeffersonville Fire Department arrived, according to Sullivan County Undersheriff Eric Chaboty.


The fire damaged an 8-foot by 10-foot section of the outside wall, and the fuel line was still leaking when firefighters got there, police said. An investigation by Sullivan County Bureau of Fire Investigators found that the propane tank fuel line was intentionally damaged and the leaking gas was intentionally ignited, Chaboty said.


Pluss has a history of ties to the National Socialist Movement – described as the largest neo-Nazi group in the country – and lost his job as a professor at Fairleigh Dickinson University in New Jersey in 2005 due to his political views, according to media reports.


“Were it not for the quick action of a good Samaritan and members of the Jeffersonville Fire Department, this situation could easily have turned deadly,” Galligan said on Monday. “This defendant endangered people in the store, people passing by, and our dedicated fire and police personnel, and I am pleased that he has been held accountable and responsible for his criminal conduct.”


janderson@th-record.com