BENTON, Ill. – A former bank vice president and loan officer in central Illinois appeared in federal court Friday morning and admitted to committing arson and bank fraud.

Prosecutors with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Illinois said Richard Pigg, 52, committed the crimes between May 2011 and December 2016 when he lived and worked in Mount Vernon.

According to court documents, Pigg convinced customers at Community First Bank of the Heartland to buy rental properties in Centralia, Mount Vernon, Murphysboro, and West Frankfort on his behalf, through mortgage loans financed by CFBH.

Pigg assured the customers that he would be able to acquire the tenants and collect rent, and also maintain the properties. However, the victims never received any income from the rental properties.

During this process, Pigg would increase the amount financed in the mortgage loan by thousands of dollars above the purchase price, and redirected the proceeds to his own bank accounts to pay off his debts.

Pigg admitted to defrauding customers of more than $600,000 in this scheme.

“Richard Pigg not only used his professional position to deceive his victims and defraud the bank that employed him, he also risked the lives and safety of our heroic first responders when he chose to burn houses and apartment buildings to collect even more money he wasn’t entitled to,” U.S. Attorney Rachelle Aud Crowe said.

In addition, Pigg also admitted to burning a Centralia rental property on two occasions in 2016, and using the insurance benefits to pay off the mortgage loan on that property. He also torched a four-unit apartment complex in West Frankfort in January 2016 shortly after renewing the insurance policy, and taking out a second policy on the property.

Pigg pleaded guilty to six counts of bank fraud and three counts of arson. A sentencing date was not announced.