The owner of a St. Cloud, Minn., bar that went up in flames in February 2020 has pleaded guilty to intentionally setting his business on fire as part of a scheme to obtain insurance money, U.S. Attorney Andrew M. Luger’s office announced this week.
According to court documents, Andrew Welsh, 42, owner and operator of the Press Bar and Parlor at 502 St. Germain Street, used gasoline to set a fire in his office located in the basement of the bar. The fire eventually spread and resulted in the total destruction of the building as well as other losses, according to Luger.
Welsh and Jessie Welsh bought the tavern in 2016 after longtime owners Jim Gillespie and Grey Payne sold it after 42 years, according to the St. Cloud Times.
A week after the Feb. 17, 2020, fire, Welsh, through a hired public insurance adjuster, filed a claim with the insurance company asking for $1.43 million for property damage and other losses related to the fire, saying the loss “did not originate by any act, design, or procurement on the part of your insured.”
He was charged with arson 12 days after the fire.
Welsh pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Eric C. Tostrud to one count of arson. A sentencing date has not been set.