Port St. Lucie man charged with arson in Fort Pierce mosque blaze

Arrest made in connection to arson at Fort Pierce mosque

A 32-year-old Port St. Lucie man has been charged with arson in the fire at the Fort Pierce mosque where Orlando massacre shooter Omar Mateen worshipped, authorities said.

Joseph Schreiber was arrested Wednesday afternoon in downtown Fort Pierce after investigators received two phone tips identifying him as the man seen leaving the Islamic Center of Fort Pierce after it was set ablaze early Monday.

During a brief first-appearance court hearing Wednesday in Fort Pierce, Schreiber was ordered to remain in custody without bond.

"We made a plea [Tuesday] for the community to help in this investigation, and the community stepped forward and provided that," St. Lucie County Sheriff's Maj. David Thompson said during a news conference Wednesday. "We have received more than one tip that identified Mr. Schreiber."

Authorities said they obtained surveillance video from businesses and homes along Midway Road and Torino Parkway — a route between Schreiber's home on Zenith Drive and the mosque — that showed a man matching Schreiber's description on a motorcycle around the same time the arsonist left the mosque.

Authorities also found that his social media account had several anti-Islamic posts and comments, Thompson said.

"A search warrant was obtained and a search of Schreiber's house was conducted that revealed Schreiber owns a motorcycle consistent with the surveillance video footage," Thompson said. "Other evidence collected also linked Schreiber to the arson."

Schreiber was charged with arson with the hate-crime enhancement, making it a first-degree felony, the sheriff's office said. He was to be booked into the St. Lucie County Jail without bond.

Federal agencies continue their investigation and federal charges may be filed against Schreiber, said FBI Assistant Special Agent in Charge Michael D'Alonzo.

"We take any act of violence or threat to a house of worship very seriously," D'Alonzo said.

Schreiber has a criminal history dating to 2003, when he was charged with petty theft, resisting arrest and trespassing, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. He was released from state prison in August 2014 after serving an 18-month sentence for grand theft, records show.

Schreiber could face a 30-year minimum mandatory sentence or even life in prison, Thompson said.

"This was harmful to the community. This was a place of worship and it was very important for the community that this person be brought to justice," Thompson said.

rpiccardo@sun-sentinel.com, 954-356-4544 or Twitter @rebecapiccardo

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