Business Owner Indicted for Arson of his North Philly Store to Collect Insurance
Friday, August 28, 2020
PHILADELPHIA – United States Attorney William M. McSwain announced that Leonardo Dan Almonte-Fernandez, 39, of Philadelphia, PA, was charged by Indictment with one count of malicious damage of a building by means of fire affecting interstate commerce, one count of the use of fire to commit another felony, and three counts of wire fraud.
According to court documents, on April 25, 2020, Almonte-Fernandez allegedly set fire to his business, Chevere Mini Market, at 1443 E. Luzerne Street in Philadelphia. The defendant, who rented the basement, first, and second floors of the building, was behind on his lease payments and had recently been cited by the Philadelphia Department of Public Health for underage tobacco sales. Following the fire, he allegedly submitted fraudulent claims to State Farm Fire and Casualty Company seeking $200,000 in insurance proceeds for damages resulting from the fire, for which he claimed no involvement.
“As alleged in the Indictment, Almonte-Fernandez has a brazen disrespect for the law – and for the safety of his neighbors in this densely-populated residential area,” said U.S. Attorney McSwain. “He put other people’s homes and lives at risk, and then attempted to steal insurance money. Arson is a despicable crime. Together with our federal and local partners, we are committed to doing everything possible to punish and prevent it.”
“Arson is a dangerous crime and a very real threat to our community,” said John Schmidt, acting Special Agent in Charge of ATF’s Philadelphia Field Division. “We routinely work with our partners from the Philadelphia Police Department and Fire Marshal’s Office to build these complex and violent arson cases. Rest assured, ATF along with our law enforcement partners who round out our Arson and Explosives Task Force is dedicated to seeking justice against those who use fire as a weapon.”
“The Philadelphia Fire Marshals Office remains committed to investigating acts of arson throughout the City. We are grateful to the US Attorney’s Office and all of our partners for their ongoing help and support,” said Deputy Chief Fire Marshal Dennis J. Merrigan.
If convicted, the defendant faces a maximum possible sentence of 100 years’ imprisonment, a 10-year mandatory minimum term of imprisonment, up to three years’ supervised release, a $1.25 million fine, and a $500 special assessment.
The case was investigated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Fire Arms and Explosives Arson and Explosives Task Force, the Philadelphia Fire Marshal’s Office and the Philadelphia Police Department, and is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Sarah Damiani.
An indictment, information or criminal complaint is an accusation. A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.