SAN BERNARDINO ( — A San Bernardino man has been arrested on suspicion of grand theft after sheriff’s deputies say he looted property in the Blue Cut Fire burn zone.

John Coppini, 44, was arrested Friday and charged with grand theft. Deputies say he posed as a caretaker after the fire, even giving interviews to TV news crews that were seen by the property owners.

“I was really mad,” said Crystal Armstrong. “I couldn’t believe that somebody could actually stand in front of a camera like I’m doing right now and say ‘Yeah I’m these people’s caretaker.’ ”

Deputies say Coppini stole a truck and tools belonging to the Armstrong family. The truck was recovered, but the tools are missing. Those tools are needed for the family diesel-repair business.

Crystal Armstrong lost everything in the fire, including her clothing, but she says she’ll forgive the man who stole from her family.

“I will rebuild here,” said Armstrong, “and I will continue. We will get more tools and survive.”

The Blue Cut Fire broke out Aug. 16 in the Cajon Pass. It burned 37,000 acres and destroyed more than 100 homes, including Armstrong’s.


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