A 30-year-old San Antonio, Texas man was sentenced Wednesday in a federal court to six and a half years in prison for being a felon in possession of a firearm and setting fire to approximately 22 cell towers, according to court records.
In a statement, prosecutors said Sean Aaron Smith “maliciously attempted to damage and destroy, using fire, multiple cellular telephone towers around San Antonio between April 2021 and May 2022.”
Smith faced a penalty of five to 20 years in prison for each charge related to arson and up to 10 years in prison for the firearms charge.
Smith was arrested in a traffic stop on May 13, 2022. During the stop, law enforcement officers located a handgun on the floorboard in front of the driver’s seat. Executing a search warrant for Smith’s apartment on May 15, 2022, investigators found additional firearms. Smith knowingly possessed the firearms after being previously convicted of two felony crimes, for which he served more than a year imprisonment on each.
His friend, Coley Lane Dupre, 19, led authorities to charge Smith with the arson incidents. She was accused of setting a tower on fire on May 24, 2021. Dupre, who was shown surveillance images of the fire, confirmed to investigators that she was with Smith as his “lookout.”
Smith pleaded guilty on August 17, 2023, to six counts of arson of cellphone towers and two counts of felon in possession of a firearm. It is unknown if charges were brought against Dupre.
“Witnesses reported the defendant was on a ‘mission’ to destroy the 5G towers because he hated the Government and believed they were spying on him,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Roomberg wrote in a sentencing memorandum.
“The SAFD arson investigator’s expert opinion is the modus operandi of the other 16 cellular tower arsons match the six towers for which the Defendant pled guilty and that the same person committed all 22 arsons,” said Roomberg.
“My office will not tolerate attacks on our critical infrastructure seeking to shut down our cellular telephone system and endangering our citizens who need to use our 911 emergency systems,” said U.S. Attorney Jaime Esparza for the Western District of Texas.
“An attack on the infrastructure of a community has the potential for devastating effects,” said Esparza.