Man who set roadside fires after losing at casinos sentenced

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EL CAJON, Calif. — A Poway man who set a series of roadside fires in Valley Center and Lakeside in 2014 and 2015 was sentenced Friday to nine years and four months in state prison.

Jonathan Benjamin Cohen, 45, was convicted last month of five counts of arson.

Evidence produced during his two-week trial placed Cohen in the vicinity of eight small fires along Lake Wohlford Road in Valley Center and Wildcat Canyon Road in Lakeside.

Deputy District Attorney Andy Aguilar told jurors that Cohen would set fires on the way home from a losing day at the Barona Resort & Casino in Lakeside and the Valley View Casino & Hotel in Valley Center.

A jail inmate testified that Cohen told him he hated the casinos and wanted to burn them to the ground.

Surveillance cameras captured cars registered to Cohen on semi-rural roads within minutes of each blaze, according to evidence presented at trial. Most of the fires were not large and were put out by firefighters or members of the public.