- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
A Waldorf trash collector is ready to move on with his life and business after charges of arson and insurance fraud were dropped against him and his employee Tuesday.
Gerald Butler, 47, of Waldorf has owned Refuse Rescues for 10 years and currently holds seven contracts offering curbside trash collection to roughly 3,500 customers.
Ten months ago, Butler’s business took a hit when one of his garbage haulers, a 1990 Volvo, caught fire in his truck lot on Old Washington Road. But the damage only got worse Dec. 5, when an investigator with the Office of the State Fire Marshal returned and charged Butler and one of his drivers, Waldorf resident William Reeves, 48, with second-degree arson and insurance fraud.
Butler said the fraud charges stemmed from a call he placed to his insurance company after the fire asking about what type of coverage his business had.
“They said because I made a phone call to the insurance company after the fact asking what type of insurance I have. That’s why they charged me with insurance fraud,” Butler said. “I asked the clerk at the insurance company what kind of insurance I had. I knew I had liability insurance, but what kind of insurance did I have.”
Butler reasoned that, had he been looking to commit fraud, he would have set fire to his other trucks that also carried liability insurance.
“I had other trucks that had liability right next to the one that caught fire,” he said. “Thank God that didn’t happen because I would have been completely wiped out.”
As for the arson charges, Butler said a surveillance video shows the truck on fire 29 minutes after he and Reeves left for a transfer station in Washington, D.C. But the investigator concluded that Butler and Reeves set the fire on suspicion that the flames had burned slowly and actually started only three to five minutes after the two men left the lot, Butler said.
“He may have just been overworked and rushed to judgment. I don’t want to bash the fire marshal,” Butler said.
Prosecutors dropped the case after it became clear to them that the charges were ill-founded, Butler said. He does not know who set fire to his dump truck but suspects it might have been a disgruntled ex-employee, whom Butler said he fired three days before the blaze.
Now exonerated, Butler said he needs Charles County residents and homeowner’s associations, which provide a lot of his business, to know about his innocence.
“I’m not a second-degree arsonist. I’m not an insurance fraud,” he said. “We’ve been in business 10 years and have a great business relationship with the community, and I love Charles County.”
Butler said he has not been able to secure a new contract since news of his arrest broke. In that time, he estimated that his business has missed out on eight to 12 contracts, each promising between 300 and 500 new customers.
“We haven’t got a contract since Dec. 6. We haven’t gotten any new business since Dec. 6, and it’s been detrimental to the business,” Butler said. “And our competitors, they tell everyone not to use Refuse Rescue because they’re arsonists. They’re insurance frauds, and I just respect the customers and vendors that stayed with us. I appreciate them.”
If he and Reeves had never been charged, Butler said his business could have “absolutely” doubled in size since December.
Despite the apparent damage done to his business, Butler said he does not plan to sue nor seek legal damages.
“I want it to be over with. I just want the stress and the depression, I want it to be over and gone,” he said. “I’m not suing the state. I’m not suing the government. I’m not suing anybody.”