ST. CLOUD, Minn. (AP) — The owner of a historic St. Cloud bar has been indicted on federal arson and wire fraud charges for allegedly setting fire to the business and submitting a fraudulent insurance claim, prosecutors announced Friday.
Andrew Welsh, 41, of St. Joseph, was arrested Friday by agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. He is accused of burning down the Press Bar and Parlor, a century-old establishment in downtown St. Cloud. Damage was estimated at $1 million.
A federal indictment unsealed Friday charges Welsh with one count of arson, one count of using fire to commit a federal felony and one count of wire fraud. Welsh was initially charged in state court, but the Stearns County Attorney’s Office says the case will now be prosecuted in federal court, where Welsh could face stiffer penalties.
“We are going to prove that Andrew Welsh is innocent,” said his attorney, Andy Birrell. “It’s a case about science, and the science is on our side.”
According to the federal indictment, Welsh, who had a $1.35 million insurance policy on the Press Bar and Parlor, used an ignitable liquid to set fire to the bar’s basement on Feb. 17. The fire spread and destroyed the building. Days later, Welsh allegedly hired a public insurance adjuster, who claimed Welsh was entitled to more than $1.4 million in property damage and other losses.
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