PORTLAND — A Maine man was sentenced Monday to five years in prison for starting a fire last fall that destroyed the building that housed a plumbing business in Freeport.

Christopher Lee Veysey II, 22, pleaded guilty to one count of arson and six counts of burglary of a motor vehicle in the fire Oct. 24 at Bob Miles and Son on Route 1, north of downtown Freeport. Two counts of arson, three counts of motor vehicle burglary and one count of theft were dismissed during the hearing in Cumberland County Unified Criminal Court.

As part of the plea agreement, Veysey, most recently of New Gloucester, was sentenced to 15 years in prison, with all but five years suspended, and four years of probation for the arson conviction. He received two years for the remaining charges, which will run concurrently with the arson sentence.

The fire spread to the wood-frame building from vehicles parked near the rear wall and went up to the roof, which collapsed. Equipment and supplies in the 100-foot-by-50-foot building were damaged. The business filed a claim for $1.2 million worth of damage, according to the prosecutor.

Veysey told authorities that he was using a cigarette lighter as a source of light while breaking into vehicles next to the business, according to Assistant District Attorney Angela Cannon.

Veysey said papers under the seat of a van caught fire and he patted out the fire with his hands, Cannon said. After he moved on to other vehicles, he saw smoke coming from the van and started walking south on Route 1, she said.

Authorities learned about Veysey after a woman told police that she suspected him of taking her wallet and keys from her home about one-third of a mile from the fire.

In fact, Veysey did not take those items, said Peter Cyr, his court-appointed attorney. The theft charge resulting from that report was among the charges that were dismissed.

When the woman called Veysey, she heard sirens in the background. She told police that Veysey was planning to take a bus from Portland to South Carolina the next morning.

Investigators found him in line at the Greyhound terminal in Portland. Veysey initially told them he had “blacked out” and could not remember everything from the previous evening, according to an affidavit prepared by Daniel Young, a senior investigator for the state Fire Marshal’s Office.

Veysey later admitted to smashing the windows of vehicles at the business in Freeport to look for cash and described how the fire had started, according to the document.

Cannon asked that Veysey be ordered to pay restitution of a little more than $20,500. Cyr said his client could not afford that much, noting that he has not graduated from high school, has been held in a juvenile facility and owes fees for criminal cases elsewhere in Maine.

Cyr also said that Veysey had concerns about paying for the psychological and substance abuse evaluations and counseling that may be required by his probation officer.

District Court Judge Mary Kelly did not require Veysey to pay restitution but did include the evaluations and counseling in his probation conditions.

“It’s a dreadful thing that’s happened — a million dollars worth of damage in a state that’s struggling economically,” she said.

The judge said she wanted Veysey to make more of his life so he can be a better example to his young child.

After the fire, Bob Miles and Son relocated temporarily to a building on Route 136, said Wendy Miles, who is married to the owner. She said the burned building had to be torn down to the foundation, and construction began in January.

The business moved back to Freeport on May 4. It held a grand opening last week.

Miles said they didn’t spend the winter being angry. She said she is satisfied with Veysey’s sentence, if authorities believe that will deter him from similar crimes.

“We felt bad for him,” she said of Veysey. “This was going to devastate his life. This was a bump in the road for us.”

Staff Writer Ann S. Kim can be contacted at 791-6383 or at: [email protected]

Twitter: AnnKimPPH