The pastor of a Baltimore, Md., church has pled guilty to setting fire to an apartment he rented in Southeast Washington in a plan to collect insurance money.
Jamel Carelock, the pastor of Lead Church, pled guilty in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia to charges of arson, felony destruction of property and second-degree insurance fraud. The trial in the case was scheduled to begin on August 28, 2018, with sentencing scheduled for October 26, 2018.
According to the government’s evidence, at approximately 1 a.m. on Dec. 17, 2017, Carelock intentionally set fire to his apartment unit by soaking his mattress with gasoline and lighting the mattress on fire. This led to extensive damage to his unit and the surrounding apartments.
The apartment complex includes 94 units, and the residents included small children and elderly individuals, who were home at the time of the fire and forced to evacuate. The fire caused more than $40,000 worth of damage and rendered at least one of the neighboring apartments uninhabitable.
A law enforcement investigation revealed Carelock had applied for an insurance policy eight days prior to the fire. He later filed a claim for more than $11,000 in damage to his property, with the intent to defraud the insurance company.
The evidence showed that in making the insurance claim, Carelock presented materially false information. He misrepresented that he was not responsible for the fire, falsely claimed that he was in Georgia at the time of the blaze and falsely claimed that he lost personal items, including suits and a television. In fact, Carelock had removed those items from the unit before the fire and still had them when he made the insurance claim.
The investigation also determined Carelock’s cell phone was one mile away from the fire five minutes after the fire alarm was pulled. Carelock was arrested on Jan. 19, 2018, and has been in custody ever since.
Source: The United States Department of Justice
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