Ex-Executive Gets 6 Years for Torching Company's Plant

TIMES STAFF WRITER

A former executive of a San Fernando baby products firm was sentenced Friday to six years in prison for burning down the plant to collect insurance money.

Victor Soto, 36, of Valencia, admitted in Los Angeles Superior Court that he set the fire that destroyed one-third of Tailored Baby Inc.'s factory in the 500 block of Library Street and caused more than $1 million in damages on Dec. 18, 1990.

However, in an unsuccessful plea for probation, Soto said he set the fire only after learning that the owner of the company, Aaron Thomas, had planned to commit the arson himself.

Soto, who was a vice president, said Thomas was like a father to him, and that he feared Thomas would be killed if he tried to burn down the plant by himself. Soto also has admitted killing Thomas on Feb. 19, 1991, but claims he acted in self-defense after Thomas attacked him with a claw hammer.

Soto has not been charged in that killing, which is still under investigation by police, according to a spokesman for the district attorney's office.

Company officials have maintained that neither Thomas nor anyone else associated with the firm was involved in any wrongdoing.

As part of the arson investigation, an audit by the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms found that the company's sales had fallen to $15 million in 1990, a decrease of 25% from the previous year, and that the firm had $2 million in unpaid debts. The company makes baby-care products such as quilts, blankets and bibs.

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