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-

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

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 24 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.

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.

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.

Ryan Tracy – Illinois

CFI, CFEI, CVFI – Fire Investigator

Ryan Tracy has been in the fire service since 1998, and has been a fire investigator for over 15 years.  He is currently a Lieutenant on the Homewood, IL Fire Department.  Ryan became a Certified Fire Investigator with the State of Illinois in 2007, and has since become a certified Arson Investigator with the State of Illinois.

Ryan is also recognized as a Certified Fire & Explosion Investigator (CFEI) and Certified Vehicle Fire Investigator (CVFI) with the National Association of Fire Investigators (NAFI), and a Certified Fire Investigator (CFI) with the International Association of Arson Investigators (IAAI).  He is an instructor for the Fire Investigation programs at both the Northeastern Illinois Public Safety Training Academy (NIPSTA) and at the University of Illinois Fire Service Institute.

Ryan has worked as a private fire investigator since 2008, and is an advisor for the MABAS Division 24 Origin and Cause team in the south suburbs of Chicago.  In his years of experience in fire investigations, Ryan has worked fire scenes alongside experts with the Illinois State Fire Marshalls office, the South Suburban Major Crimes Task Force, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives (ATF).  Ryan is a member of the Illinois Chapter of the IAAI & NAFI, and is currently the CFI Chairman for the Illinois Chapter of the IAAI.

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.

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.

Darrin Clayton –


CFEI, CFI – Fire Investigator

Darrin has been on the Galesburg Fire Department Since 2010, where is currently serves as the rank of Captain. Darrin also volunteers on his local volunteer fire department. He is the supervisor for Galesburg Fire investigation team. He earned his associate degree from Illinois Central College in 2006 in Fire Science along with his bachelor’s degree from Western Illinois University in Business Administration in 2008. Darrin began his investigation career in 2014 with the Galesburg Fire Department. Darrin trained at the National Fire Academy in Emmitsburg, MD earning his “Certified Fire Investigator” through the International Association of Arson Investigators in 2020 along with his “Certified Fire and Explosion Investigator through (NAFI) in 2021. He has been working in the private sector since 2021.


Mike Lorence – Illinois

CFEI, CFI, CFVI – Fire Investigator

Mike has been in the fire service for 12 years and a fire investigator for the last 7 years.  He is currently an active fire investigator, conducting cause and origin investigations for both the public and private sectors.  Mike is also an ASE certified Master Automobile Technician, who holds a Certificate in Automotive Technology and has an Associate Degree in EMS-Paramedic.   He is certified as a Fire Investigator by the State of Illinois Office of the State Fire Marshal.  He also holds certification from the National Association of Fire Investigators as a Fire and Explosion Investigator (CFEI) and Certified Vehicle Fire Investigator (CVFI).  He has also been certified through the International Association of Arson Investigators (IAAI) as a Certified Fire Investigator (CFI).

Todd Mutchler – Illinois

Digital Forensics Investigator

Todd Mutchler has 27 years of law enforcement experience, including 10 years of criminal investigation experience and 9 years of digital/internet crimes investigation experience.  He is a Certified Mobile Device Examiner by the International Association of Computer Investigative Specialists, and a Magnet Certified Computer Examiner.  Mr. Mutchler is able to acquire and analyze data from mobile devices.  Services available include: Call History Log Recovery, Text Message (SMS, MMS) Recovery, Contact Extraction, Image and Video Recovery, Social Network and Internet Data Recovery, E-Mail Recovery, Location/GPS Information Recovery, Router Interrogation, WiFi Connections Recovery, Bluetooth Connections Recovery, Ability to Analyze and Explain Call Detail Records/Cell Tower Data, Ability to Analyze and Map Cell Phone Provider Records, Other Miscellaneous Data Recovery from Mobile Devices, and Examination of Previously Acquired Data.  Todd has expert testimony experience related to Digital Forensics and Cell Phone Analysis.

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

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.