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Soldier gets 5 years in prison
Arson case led to Camp Merrill sting
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A Gainesville man whose role in setting fire to an Atlanta strip club led to a sting that ensnared four other Dahlonega-based soldiers was sentenced this week in federal court.

Former Army medic Sandeo Pablo Dyson, 46, was sentenced to five years in prison for the Jan. 1, 2007, arson fire at Club Onyx.

Co-defendant Boyd Smith, 41, received a five-year sentence and Howard “Bit” Thrower, 52, was sentenced to three years by U.S. District Judge Julie Carnes, said Patrick Crosby, a spokesman for Acting U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia Sally Q. Yates.

Dyson was one of five soldiers stationed at Dahlonega’s Camp Frank D. Merrill who were arrested following an undercover investigation by the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

In 2006, Dyson worked security for Atlanta adult entertainment club Platinum 21 when managers decided to burn down the rival Club Onyx. Dyson was paid $5,000 by Smith and Thrower to “do the burn,” prosecutors said.

The fire caused $1 million in damages.

Dyson pleaded guilty to the charges in April 2008. Thrower pleaded guilty in January 2009 and Smith was convicted by a jury in February 2009.

Dyson’s arson case led the ATF to set up a sting in which an agent met with the Camp Merrill soldiers and hired them to raid an Atlanta cocaine trafficker’s “stash house.”

The soldiers agreed to the plan and showed up armed for the robbery. There was no stash house, and they were arrested by federal authorities.

In August 2008, Army Ranger Carlos Lopez, 30, received a sentence of three years for the plot and David Ray White, 32, was sentenced to two years by U.S. District Court Judge Beverly Martin. Co-defendant Andre Champagne was later sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison, and decorated Army Ranger Randy Spivey, whose role in the plot was more limited, received three years probation and a $3,000 fine.