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Police retrace night of ruin - vandalism cost now put at $750,000

Alcohol and a propensity to prowl construction sites may have played roles in vandalism that caused $750,000 in damage to a Fargo hockey arena under construction, according to information contained in court documents charging two suspects.

Two 24-year-old Fargo men, Jordan Taylor Lugert and David William Vacha, appeared Friday in Cass County District Court on charges connected to vandalism at the site where the Urban Plains Center hockey arena is going up in south Fargo.

Lugert's bail was set at $10,000 cash. Bail for Vacha, who prosecutor Tristan Van de Streek said has prior convictions for similar conduct, was set at $30,000 cash or bond.

Van de Streek said estimates put the damage to the UPC building at $500,000 and damage to equipment, including cranes, at $250,000.

According to court documents:

Investigators focused on Vacha after receiving a tip he was known to prowl construction sites.

A friend of Vacha's told police Vacha frequently uses the word "yeah," a term found sprayed on a wall of the arena with a fire extinguisher.

After learning Vacha had been to a party at Lugert's home last weekend, investigators paid Lugert a visit.

Lugert invited police into his apartment and verified Vacha had been there for a party.

A police report of the interview stated that after Lugert gave investigators different stories, he told them, "Why don't you guys flip a new page, because I've got a new story to tell you."

Lugert said during his party the night of April 19, Vacha and someone named Mac Johnson went to the UPC construction site. He said they did nothing while there.

Lugert said later he and Vacha, both of them intoxicated, used a .22-caliber rifle to shoot at geese on a pond behind his apartment building.

They then went to the construction site, where they threw a large generator off the north side of the building, Lugert told investigators.

Lugert said he fired up a crane - he didn't remember if it required a key or not - and began messing with the controls.

He abandoned the crane after the ball attached to the crane's cable smashed into the crane's cab.

At some point, Lugert said, Vacha used a fire extinguisher to write "yeah" on a wall.

The pair eventually split up, and Lugert found another crane.

He began working the controls, thinking he was moving the crane's cable up and down.

Instead, the crane's boom shot up and smashed against the roof of the arena, Lugert told police.

Lugert said he ran from the area and on the way back to his apartment encountered Vacha, who was again shooting at geese.

Lugert said they agreed not to talk about the incident, according to the court documents.

The interview with Lugert was recorded. But investigator William Ahlfeldt noted in his report that the batteries of his digital recorder ran out halfway through the interview; he didn't believe Lugert's admissions were recorded.

Vacha asked for an attorney when police confronted him at his home.

Lugert faces one count of criminal mischief and two counts of unlawful entry into a vehicle.

Vacha faces one count of conspiracy to commit criminal mischief and two counts of conspiracy to commit unlawful entry of a vehicle.

MacArthur Lee Johnson, 21, Fargo, was arrested in connection with the case. But Van de Streek said the Cass County Jail was instructed late Friday to release Johnson, and he said no charges are expected to be filed in the near future.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Olson at (701) 241-5555