St. Cloud bar owner pleads guilty to burning down business to defraud insurer – Twin Cities

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.

Feb. 29, 2020 courtesy photo of Andrew Charles Welsh. Welsh, 40, of St. Joseph, Minn., was charged March 3, 2020 with two counts of first degree arson for allegedly setting fire to a historic bar he owns in St. Cloud. Welsh is accused of burning down the Press Bar and Parlor, a century-old establishment in downtown St. Cloud, on Feb. 17. Damage was estimated at $1 million. (Courtesy of the Stearns County Sheriff's Office)
Feb. 29, 2020 courtesy photo of Andrew Charles Welsh. Welsh, 40, of St. Joseph, Minn., was charged March 3, 2020 with two counts of first degree arson for allegedly setting fire to a historic bar he owns in St. Cloud. Welsh is accused of burning down the Press Bar and Parlor, a century-old establishment in downtown St. Cloud, on Feb. 17. Damage was estimated at $1 million. (Courtesy of the Stearns County Sheriff’s Office)

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.

Ann C. Toledo

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