First off, Unfair Park calls dibs on the movie adaptation of the story of Jorge Gomez Pinto Sr. Just so we're clear. Because what follows, again courtesy the U.S. Attorney's Office, is a crisply written tragicomic short story about a restaurant owner who's due in Fort Worth federal court at this very moment following his arrest last night on allegations he hired someone to torch his Weatherford eatery for half a mil in insurance money.
Times are tough for restaurant owners, no doubt; tales of woe are served up almost weekly. But the feds allege that Pinto, who claims losses of $400,000, wanted his well-liked eatery -- Jorge's Mexican Restaurant -- burned to the ground rather than merely shuttered. He hired someone to do the deed, say the feds, and, like Alan Stanwyk, Pinto allegedly had a plan in order to collect the insurance money:
Pinto stated that he planned on being at home with his family and drunk during the night of the arson so that he would have an alibi. He also said that since he recently had heart bypass surgery, he would fake a heart attack upon being notified of the arson.
The entire narrative, which includes an undercover ATF agent, follows. --Robert Wilonsky
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RESTAURANT OWNER ARRESTED FOR SOLICITING INDIVIDUAL TO SET FIRE TO HIS RESTAURANT IN WEATHERFORD, TEXAS, IN ARSON FOR PROFIT SCHEME
FORT WORTH, Texas - Local restaurant owner, Jorge Gomez Pinto, Sr., was arrested last night at approximately 6:15 p.m. in Weatherford, Texas, on a federal felony charge of solicitation to commit arson, announced James T. Jacks, the acting U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas. Pinto, 55, of Weatherford, is charged in a criminal complaint filed yesterday in the Northern District of Texas. He will make his initial appearance this afternoon at 2:00 p.m. in federal court in Fort Worth before U.S. Magistrate Judge Charles Bleil.
Pinto is the owner of Jorge's Mexican Restaurant, located at 1802 Santa Fe in Weatherford. Pinto also owns restaurants in Aledo and Brock, Texas. According to the complaint, Pinto solicited an individual to conduct a "complete loss" arson at his restaurant in Weatherford in an effort to collect the insurance proceeds. The individual contacted law enforcement.
On January 6, 2009, the individual informed Pinto that he would be willing to commit the arson, but would need to have a "friend" (an undercover ATF Special Agent) assist him. The two met with Pinto and the ATF agent told Pinto that he used to be a fireman and was willing to help him with his problem. Pinto told them that he wanted his restaurant burned to the ground and that he could not afford a partial loss. Pinto told them he was going through financial struggles because of his restaurant business and a steak house investment in which he allegedly lost $400,000. Pinto said that his insurance policy on the restaurant was $500,000 and that he would pay them 10 percent of the proceeds as soon as he received the insurance money.
Pinto stated that he planned on being at home with his family and drunk during the night of the arson so that he would have an alibi. He also said that since he recently had heart bypass surgery, he would fake a heart attack upon being notified of the arson. Pinto advised them that there were no security cameras in the restaurant, that the restaurant alarm had not worked properly for some time, and that he did not plan to have it engaged the night of the fire. He also invited the two to the restaurant to show them areas in the rear of the building and the two doors which he would leave unlocked for their unforced entry. Pinto also showed them the main electrical power box, a loose lighting fixture in a storage room, and loose wires on the wall which Pinto thought could be used to disguise the fire as accidental.
The undercover agent agreed to call Pinto the next day, January 7, 2009, to collect the funds to purchase the blow torch, gasoline cans, and gasoline in furtherance of this arson-for-profit scheme. Pinto agreed that the arson would occur at approximately 3:00 a.m. on January 8, 2009.
Pinto stated that he intended to use the insurance proceeds to open a sports bar in the Weatherford area.
The maximum statutory penalty for the federal charge of solicitation to commit arson, Title 18, United States Code, Sections 373 and 844(i) is 10 years in prison and a $125,000 fine.
Mr. Jacks praised the investigative work of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the Weatherford/Parker County Special Crimes Unit. Assistant U.S. Attorney Bret Helmer is prosecuting the case.