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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Former restaurant owner sentenced

Friday, June 15, 2007

On Thursday, a former Cloverdale restaurant owner was sentenced to 96 months in prison for the crime of arson.

Susan W. Brooks, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Indiana, announced Thursday that Richard A. Romandine, 46, Greencastle, received the sentence for a fire that destroyed Rick's Steakhouse, 5 S. Main St., Cloverdale, on Nov. 13, 2005.

He was convicted at trial on March 23, 2007.

According to Assistant United States Attorney Joe H. Vaughn, who prosecuted the case for the government, Chief Judge McKinney also imposed three years supervised release following Romandine's release from prison. He was ordered to make restitution in the amount of $264,762.

The case was the result of an investigation by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Putnam County Sheriff's Department, and the Office of the State Fire Marshal/Indiana Department of Homeland Security.

A Federal grand jury in Indianapolis had brought an indictment of arson against Romandine in 2006. He was arrested at his home in Greencastle in the early morning hours of March 3, 2006, by officials from the U.S. Marshals office and ATF agents.

He had owned and operated the restaurant since January 2005. According to court Brooks, Romandine had his son obtain an insurance policy that provided $100,000 in coverage for the personal property in the business and $40,000 in coverage for interruption of the restaurant's business.

Brooks said Romandine had accumulated approximately $53,000 in delinquent and outstanding debts related to the operation of the restaurant and was in dire financial straits at the time of the fire. Several days before the fire, according to Brooks, Romandine's landlord told him he would close the restaurant if he did not make arrangements to pay the approximate $14,800 arrearage owed to the landlord.

Brooks said when Romandine's efforts to pay other individuals to burn down the restaurant were unsuccessful, he staged the fire to appear as though it had been caused by a malfunction in the restaurant's electrical system. She added that Romandine, acting through his son, then filed an insurance claim.

The fire broke out at the restaurant in the late evening hours of Nov. 13, 2005. Firefighters were dispatched to the scene at 11:37 p.m., but the building was engulfed by 1:30 a.m., Nov. 14.

Firefighters from Belle Union, Jefferson Township, Greencastle, Brazil, Spencer, Reelsville, Cloverdale Town and Cloverdale Township Volunteer were dispatched to the scene to help fight the blaze.

Although no one was injured, the fire caused officials to close off a portion of U.S. 231, which stayed closed for several hours. It was later reopened.

Residents at the nearby Cloverdale Convalescence and Rehabilitation Center were evacuated from the scene sometime around 3:30 a.m. They were transported first to the Cloverdale Middle School, while some were immediately moved to Putnam County Hospital. Others were moved to other health care facilities later that day.

A warrant was issued to Romandine on Dec. 19 for business records and was served by the ATF.

The day following the fire, Romandine told the BannerGraphic he had been contacted by officials between 11:45-11:50 p.m. He said when he arrived to the scene, he saw the building covered in a cloud of smoke.

"The front of the building was just smoke," Romandine told the BannerGraphic. "You couldn't see anything in front of the building. It is tragic."

The restaurant included an arcade game room, a bakery and gift shop. The loss of the building and its contents was estimated at nearly $350,000.

The nearly 100-year-old building was owned by Carl Kelb of High Point Oil, Indianapolis. It was previously Greg's Steakhouse and used to house the J.D. Lumber business.

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