Our Staff

“Experts in the fields of fire investigation, forensic engineering, subrogation, investigation of insurance claims and liability exposures.”
Investigation/Engineering Staff

Lonn Abeltins- Iowa

CFEI, CFS – Senior Fire Investigator
Lonn Abeltins is the President and Senior Fire Investigator with IFIC. He has over 33 years experience and has conducted over 4,500 Origin & Cause investigations. Lonn is a Certified Fire and Explosion Investigator, as well as a Certified Fire Specialist. He also holds a degree in Fire Science Technology. Lonn has testified as an expert in both federal criminal and civil courts, as well as in various state courts throughout the Midwest. Licensed Private Investigator in Iowa.

George Howe- Iowa

CFEI- Fire Investigator
George Howe specializes in the area of fire origin and cause investigation and also has experience with explosives-related investigations. He has over twenty years of investigative experience. George started his career as a firefighter with the Des Moines Fire Department. He then served nineteen years in the Iowa Department of Public Safety where he held positions as a Trooper in the Iowa State Patrol Division, Special Agent assigned to the Arson and Explosives Bureau of the Iowa State Fire Marshal Division, Assistant State Fire Marshal and Iowa State Fire Marshal. Since 2002 George has conducted fire origin and cause investigations in the private sector. Licensed Private Investigator in Iowa.

Kelly LaFollette- Iowa

CVFI, CIFI, Fire Investigator, Technician
Kelly LaFollette earned a Bachelor of Science in Economics with a minor in Psychology from the University of South Dakota in 1991. He then accepted employment with a large national insurance company, where he worked as a claim representative for more than six years.  Eventually progressing to the Special Investigative Unit where he investigated claims with indicators of insurance fraud for more than seven years.

Kelly earned his Chartered Property and Casualty Underwriter, Associate in Claims, Certified Insurance Fraud Investigator, Certified Fire & Explosion Investigator and Certified Vehicle Fire Investigators designations. Kelly is also a Licensed Private Investigator in Iowa

Kelly performs a wide range of investigative tasks from fire scene processing, contents documentation, assisting with lab inspections / testing, to witness interviews. Mr. LaFollette currently conducts fire origin and cause investigations.

Todd Hartzler- Iowa

P.E. – Electrical Engineer
Todd is the Vice President of IFIC and has been involved in forensic electrical engineering since 1996. Todd has earned his Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering and Master of Science in Engineering. He is a Licensed Professional Engineer in Iowa, Illinois, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Nebraska. Experienced with investigations of residential and commercial wiring, vehicles, HVAC, consumer electronics and industrial process controls, Todd draws from a diversified knowledge base. Todd also serves as the Chaplain for the Iowa chapter of the International Association of Arson Investigators.

Gary Hong-
Minnesota

P.E.- Electrical Engineer

Gary Hong is a Professional Electrical Engineer and has been involved in Forensic Engineering since 1999.  Gary received his Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Wisconsin – Madison.  He is a Licensed Professional Engineer in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Montana, and Nebraska. Gary has a diverse amount of forensic experience including electrical fire /explosion investigation, product failure analysis, interpreting electrical code issues, product testing, and reviewing of engineering protocols and processes.  Gary also teaches an advanced forensic electrical investigations class for the Minnesota State Fire Marshal’s office.

Ken Scurto- Nebraska

CFEI -Fire Investigator
Ken has been in the fire service since 1980, having served on three fire departments in Nebraska and attaining the rank of fire chief. He began his fire investigation career with the Nebraska State Fire Marshal�s Office in 1985 and spent seventeen years with that agency, attaining the rank of investigator. In his career, he has investigated more than 4,300 fires, has testified in more than seventy criminal and civil cases in four states and has become nationally certified as a fire and explosion investigator. He has continued his investigation career in the private sector since 2002. Licensed Private Investigator in Iowa and Kansas.

Mark Sloup- Nebraska

CFEI- Fire Investigator

Mark Sloup earned his Associates of Applied Science Degree in Fire Protection Technology from Southeast Community College in 2003.  Mark began his career with the Nebraska State Fire Marshal’s Office in 2003 where he performed Life Safety Code inspections before spending nearly eleven years as an investigator with the agency.  Mark earned his Nebraska Law Enforcement Certification in 2006 and has since conducted nearly eight hundred fire and explosion scene investigations.  Mark has testified in numerous Nebraska Criminal Court cases.  Mark is a National and Nebraska Chapter member of the International Association of Arson Investigators (IAAI) and a member of the National Association of Fire Investigators (NAFI).  Mark is also a Licensed Private Investigator in Iowa.

Roseanne Scurto- Nebraska

Investigator
Roseanne began her career in the fire service in Nebraska in 1985 as a volunteer firefighter/EMT. She retired after 18 years with the Nebraska State Fire Marshals Training Division as a part-time instructor having taught all subjects related to the fire service. She was an adjunct instructor at Southeast Community College in the Fire Protection Technology Program for 4 years. She is a member of the Nebraska Chapter of the IAAI, and the Nebraska Society of Fire Service Instructors. Roseanne is an Investigator with IFIC and her responsibilities include assisting fire investigators at fire scenes and with background checks, financial checks, as well as theft and fraud investigations.

Ghattas Bitar- Kansas City

Senior Technical Consultant
For over 21 years, Ghattas has been serving the insurance, legal and corporate communities in matters of high-technology, electrical fire analysis, equipment failure, scope of damage and cause of loss analysis. Ghattas has acquired extensive knowledge regarding lightning and power surge damage to HVAC equipment, industrial/manufacturing equipment and telephone/computer systems. He earned his Bachelors of Science in Electrical Engineering degree from Wichita State University, Kansas.

Eric Drews- Kansas City

CFEI Mechanical Engineer
Mr. Drews earned his Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering in 1994, and has since expanded his engineering experience and knowledge base to include gas, mechanical, and plumbing systems, as well as overall building construction. This would include analysis of moisture intrusion related issues, damages associated with storm or seismic induced circumstances, wind and hail, structural analysis, and construction related defects or exterior building envelope related issues. He began his career in consulting and forensic engineering in 2002 with a local firm in the Kansas City area. He maintains the designation of Certified Fire & Explosion Investigator (CFEI) with the National Association of Fire Investigators (NAFI) since 2004 and has numerous experiences in court related testimony. He also maintains licenses as a Professional Engineer in multiple states.

Stacy Niemann – Iowa

CIFI

Mr. Niemann was employed for 21 years with the nation’s largest P&C insurance carrier.  He has worked in insurance claims his entire career; handling homeowners, boat, commercial, auto, and farm/ranch claims, as well as managed litigated files.  From 2005 to 2018 he was a member of the Special Investigative Unit investigating fraudulent fire, theft, auto, and other property/casualty related claims.  While in the SIU he honed his investigative skills in interviewing, motive identification, and fraud analysis.

Mr. Niemann is a member of the IAAI and holds a Florida Nonresident All Lines Adjuster license.  He also obtained his CIFI designation through the IASIU.

He has testified in State and Federal courts on insurance fraud cases.  He has also been a guest lecturer at the University of Northern Iowa, DMACC, and the Central Iowa Claims Association on insurance fraud related topics.

Mr. Niemann is available for fraud investigations, insurance case analysis and consultation, witness statements and interviews, scene inspections, and expert testimony related to insurance claim handling.

Cory Benge – Iowa

 CFI, Fire Investigator

Cory specializes in the area of fire origin and cause investigation. He began his career in the fire service 20 years ago as a volunteer firefighter. He then followed his passion for the fire service to become a full time career firefighter in 2003. Cory worked to the rank of Deputy Chief/Fire Marshal and has been conducting fire investigations for over ten years.

Cory has earned an Associate of Science Degree in Fire Science and a Bachelor of Science Fire Administration/Fire Investigation from Columbia Southern University. He is a Certified Fire Investigator with the IAAI and an Iowa certified peace officer completing the academy in the 255th class in 2014.

Cory has conducted over 250 fire investigations and has testified in multiple criminal court cases. Cory is a board member with the Iowa Chapter of the IAAI and is a member of the International Association of Arson Investigators (IAAI) and the National Association of Fire Investigators (NAFI).

Bret Desh

Bret Desh – Nebraska

FAA Drone Pilot, Fire Investigator Assistant, CFEI Candidate

Bret earned his associates degree in Fire Science from Hutchinson Community College in 2009. He has spent the last 8 years as a Firefighter/Paramedic in the City of Papillion, Nebraska attaining the rank of Fire Apparatus Engineer.

Bret is a FAA Licensed Commercial Drone Operator and is an experienced remote pilot, specializing in aerial photography. He is currently working towards his Certified Fire and Explosion Investigator (CFEI) and assists the other Fire Investigators with their origin and cause investigations.

Steve Chasteen – Illinois

 AIFireE, CFI, CFEI 

Steve has been in the fire service since 1972 serving as a volunteer firefighter and a full time career firefighter and company officer for 27 years for the City of Bloomington, Illinois Fire Department. He worked as a municipal fire investigator for the fire department for a number of years prior to returning to suppression duties on a ladder company where he retired as a Lieutenant.

Steve has also worked as a private fire investigator working in the insurance industry conducting fire investigations for the past 32 years. He has conducted more than 2,900 fire scene examinations and fire analysis to determine the origin and cause of the fire. Steve has testified extensively in both State and Federal Court as an expert witness. Steve is recognized as an “Associate at the Institute of Fire Engineers in London, England. He is a “Certified Fire Investigator” recognized by the International Association of Arson Investigators as well as a “Certified Fire and Explosion Investigator” recognized by the National Association of Fire Investigators. Steve also attended the ATF National Academy in Glynco, Ga. He is still a member of the MABAS 41 Fire Investigation Team in McLean County, Illinois.

Steve also works as a “Field Staff Instructor” with the University of Illinois Fire Service Institute in Champaign, Illinois. He has worked as one of the lead instructors in the Fire/Arson Investigation Training Program providing instruction to firefighters, police officers and insurance company representatives. He is also a National Instructor with the Public Agency Training Council in Indianapolis, Indiana. Steve has also provided fire investigation training to criminal investigators from various branches of the US Military.

Steve regularly consults with various local and state fire officials as well as law enforcement agencies around the country to provide assistance in fire investigation and fire scene analysis. He has also provided expert assistance to prosecutors in criminal cases as well as to the insurance industry and manufacturers in civil cases.

Mike Dilley – Illinois

 CFEI, CVFI – Fire Investigator

Mike began his career in law enforcement for the Champaign County Sheriff’s Office in 1977 serving 8 years responding and investigating numerous crimes and incidents.

He then began his Fire Service career volunteering with the Edge-Scott Fire Protection District, which led into him leaving the Sheriff’s Dept. for a fulltime career in the Fire Service.

He spent over 30 years with the Urbana Fire Department holding several positions from Firefighter, Company Officer, Division Chief and eventually as Fire Chief.  Mike first became involved in Fire Investigation as a Deputy Sheriff in 1980 and continued attending training and investigating fires throughout his career.  He is still both conducting Fire Investigations and Training Fire Investigators.

Mike was the Division Chief in Prevention and Education where he conducted and supervised various code enforcement activities and inspections of Commercial, Industrial, Business, and Residential Facilities.  He conducted and supervised Fire Investigations during his tenure at Urbana.

Mike then continued his career serving as a shift commander where he was the Incident Commander on numerous fire and emergency scenes. He also helped develop and managed Urbana’s Technical Rescue Team.  He began and developed the MABAS 28 Fire Investigation Team.  He is currently a member of the Sidney Fire Protection District as an Assistant Chief, Investigator, and currently is training Department members.

Mike has also been a licensed Private Investigator for over 20 years, owning and operating his own Origin and Cause Investigation business, conducting investigations in the private sector.

Mike has been a field staff instructor for the University of Illinois Fire Service Institute Training Academy, conducting fire investigation classes and other related fire science fields.  He has taught fire investigation, leadership, and fire management courses at his local community college and with Public Agency Training Council.

Mike has testified as an expert witness in Federal, State, and Local cases both in criminal and civil liabilities.  The National Association of Fire Investigators recognizes him as a Certified Fire and Explosion Investigator and a Certified Vehicle Fire Investigator.  He holds the certification of Fire and Arson Investigator with the Illinois State Fire Marshal’s Office.  He is also a graduate of the Northwestern Traffic Institute Accident Investigation I and II.

Ben Schultz – Illinois

CFEI, FIT-IAAI – Fire Investigator

Ben has been in the fire service for 10 years having served on both a volunteer department as well as being a career firefighter since 2016. Ben began his fire investigation career with the Carbondale Fire Department in 2016 and is a certified arson investigator in Illinois. He is currently a career firefighter/investigator for the City of Marion Fire Department. In his career, he has investigated approximately 125 fires, and continues to investigate at both the public and private sector. He began his investigation career in the private sector in 2021.

Ben is a prior police officer with further experience in interviewing, evidence collection and scene examination. He is an Air Force veteran serving from 2006 to 2012. Ben holds memberships with the IAAI-International, Illinois and Iowa  as well as the NAFI.

Greg Marty – Illinois

CFEI, CVFI – Fire Investigator

Greg is a very active member of the fire investigation community throughout the region.  He has served the City of Rock Island Fire Department since 2001 as a firefighter, lieutenant, captain, and is currently the city’s Fire Marshal and oversees the Fire Prevention Bureau.  He has been a fire investigator since 2011 and an arson investigator since 2015.

Greg has a bachelor’s degree from Western Illinois University and earned the National Fire Academy, Fire Administration and Management designation. He holds the NAFI-CFEI and the IAAI-CFI certifications.  He is a National Fire Protection Agency, Certified Fire Plans Examiner and he has extensive knowledge and background of building construction and code requirements.

Greg is the President of the MABAS 43 Fire Investigation Team, he is a past president and active member of the Quad City Fire Marshal’s Association, and he is an active member of the Illinois Chapter of the International Association of Arson Investigators.

Greg has led a team of fire and arson investigators since being promoted to Fire Marshal in 2013 and has been actively involved in over 600 investigations.  He has given expert courtroom testimony for origin and cause in multiple court cases including criminal cases.

 

Logan Fults – Illinois

CFEI, FIT-IAAI – Fire Investigator

Logan has been in the fire service since 2019 with the Canton Fire Department. Logan began his fire investigation career in 2013 as a ride along to see if he would continue to be interested in Origin and Cause fire investigation work.  Logan attended the Illinois Fire Investigation Modules in 2018 where he obtained his certification as a Fire Investigator through the Office of the State Fire Marshal.  Logan is a Certified Fire and Explosion Investigator through the National Association of Fire Investigators (NAFI) and has received his Fire Investigation Technician (FIT) certification through the International Association of Arson Investigators (IAAI).  Logan is a member of both the IAAI and NAFI.  Logan has worked and/or assisted in over 500 fires in several different states since 2013.

Chad Hazelwood- Illinois

Mobile Device Forensics/Cellular Technology, Investigator

Chad earned his Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice from Western Illinois University in 1994 and began his law enforcement career in 1995. During his 26+ year career, Chad held the positions of patrolman, K9, SWAT, detective, investigations unit supervisor, patrol supervisor and patrol Lieutenant.

During his 9 years as a detective, Chad specialized in mobile device forensics and cellular technology. He was certified as a lead homicide investigator and a child forensic interviewer. He was the lead investigator on thousands of cases including homicides, arsons, sexual assaults, child abuse, traffic crashes, child pornography and missing persons.

Chad has acquired and analyzed data from over 400 mobile devices in his 9 years as a certified mobile device examiner. He has special training in the preservation of evidence, data acquisition from mobile devices, data analysis, locating evidence, and creating reports that clearly summarize the findings. Chad also has special training and experience in obtaining, analyzing, and mapping records such as cellular data records, cellular tower dumps and Google geolocations. Chad has given expert testimony in federal court related to mobile device forensic.

Darren Winchester – Illinois

CFEI, CFI, CFII – Fire Investigator

Darren has been in the fire service for over 20 years as a volunteer firefighter, professional firefighter, and fire investigator. He earned an associate degree in Fire Science from Richland Community College in Decatur, Illinois in 2002 and a bachelor’s degree in Fire and Safety Engineering Technology from Eastern Kentucky University in 2005. While at EKU, Darren served as president of the Association of Fire Science Technicians. He is currently working on a master’s degree in Forensic Science from Oklahoma State University, with a concentration in fire and explosion investigation. Darren is a firefighter and emergency medical technician with Decatur Fire Department. He has been performing fire origin and cause investigations in the private sector since 2013. Darren obtained Certified Fire Investigator (CFEI) and Certified Fire Investigation Instructor (CFEI) certification through the National Association of Fire Investigators in 2005. He gained certification as a Certified Fire Investigator (CFI), through the International Association of Arson Investigators in 2017. Darren has specialized training in water-based fire protection systems and commercial kitchen fires.

Mark Langellier – Illinois

CFEI, CFI – Fire Investigator

Mark has been in the fire service since 1998 where he started as a volunteer firefighter before being employed by the City of Bloomington Fire Department in 2003.  He currently holds the rank of Captain with the department and is the Supervisor of their investigation team.  He obtained his Fire Investigation Certificate through the Illinois State Fire Marshal Office in 2008 and holds his CFI Certificate from the International Association of Arson Investigators.  He began his career in the private sector in 2011 and since then, has investigated nearly 800 fires for both the public and private sectors.  Mark also has an Applied Associates Degree in Fire Science Technology.

Vickie Schaefer – Illinois

CFEI, CFI – Fire Investigator

Vickie Schaefer retired from the McLean County Sheriff’s Department in McLean County, Illinois in 2008.  Vickie spent more than 13 years as a detective handling a variety of cases including death, fire, and crime scene investigations.

Vickie was also assigned as the fire investigator for the McLean County Sheriff’s Department and was a team leader/supervisor for the MABAS 41 McLean County Fire Investigation Team.  Vickie is a Certified Arson Investigator recognized by the Office of the State Fire Marshal in Illinois.  She is also a Certified Fire Investigator recognized by the International Association of Arson Investigators (IAAI) and a Certified Fire and Explosion Investigator recognized by the National Association of Fire and Explosion Investigators (NAFI).  Vickie has testified extensively in Federal and State Courts in Illinois.  She is a member of the IAAI and NAFI.

Vickie was a National Instructor for Public Agency Training Council (PATC) for nine years teaching in the fields of origin and cause investigations, fatality fire investigations and evidence collection/preservation.

Vickie has been employed as a Fire Investigator in the private sector conducting origin and cause investigations for the insurance industry since 2008 and has conducted over 1200 fire investigations.

Tim Kotecki – Illinois

CFEI, CFI – Fire Investigator

Tim earned his Associates Degree in Science from South Suburban College in 2003.  He has spent the last 16 years as a career Firefighter/Paramedic with the Village of Lansing, Illinois attaining the rank of Lieutenant.

Tim has been an Illinois State Certified Fire Investigator since 2007, as well as an Arson Investigator sworn peace officer since 2014. Tim holds positions within his MABAS division including fire investigation team advisor and Area Commander for the South Suburban Fire Investigation Task Force.

Tim has been involved with both civil and criminal depositions pertaining to origin and cause investigations. He is certified as an IAAI-CFI and a NAFI-CFEI. Tim has 15 years of origin and cause experience as a municipal fire investigator and 2 years of experience in the private sector.

Office Staff

Meredith Evans

Office Administrator
Meredith administers the file management, billing and the day-to-day operations that keep IFIC running smoothly. She can help you get an investigation started or put you in touch with one of our investigators.

Chelsea Abeltins-Sawyers

Evidence Technician
Licensed Private Investigator in Iowa.

Chelsea Sawyers is certified in Smartphone Forensics and Cellular Technology and handles the cell phone investigations for IFIC.  She performs cellular data extractions on smartphones and maps cellular phone records as received from cell phone providers.  Chelsea is the Evidence Technician and handles entering, billing, disposal authorizations and overseeing inspections when needed.  Chelsea is also a licensed private investigator in Iowa.