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Activist admits setting fire to Colorado sheepskin store

By Keith Coffman

DENVER (Reuters) - A self-described animal-rights activist known on the Internet as "Lone Wolf" pleaded guilty in federal court on Thursday to arson in a fire that destroyed a local sheepskin business.

Walter Edmund Bond, 34, admitted in U.S. District Court to setting the fire that burned the Sheepskin Factory to the ground on April 30, 2010. The store sold sheepskin blankets, rugs and related products.

Authorities were led to Bond after an informant told them Bond -- who called himself "Lone Wolf" on the Internet and has the word "Vegan" tattooed in his neck in large letters -- bragged on an animal rights web site that he "torched" the business.

"Be warned that making a living from the use and abuse of animals will not be tolerated," Bond allegedly wrote on the web site.

FBI Special Agent in Charge James Davis said in a statement that federal authorities will aggressively investigate "ideologically driven" violent crimes.

"Our priority with acts of terrorism remains to be proactive and preventative. But when acts do occur, they will be pursued to justice," Davis said.

Bond faces up to 30 years in federal prison and a maximum $500,000 fine when he is sentenced at a later hearing.

He could also be forced to pay restitution to the business owner, who was uninsured. The business was valued at $500,000.

Bond has a prior arson conviction in Iowa and is a suspect, while not charged, in two other arson cases of a leather store and a restaurant in Salt Lake City.

(Editing by Dan Whitcomb and Peter Bohan)

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