The owner of Press Bar and Parlor in St. Cloud has pleaded guilty to setting fire to his business in order to collect an insurance payout.
Andrew Welsh, 42, made a claim of more than $1.4 million in losses following the fire that destroyed the bar on West St. Germain Street on Feb. 17, 2020.
It later emerged that he'd used gasoline to start the fire himself in his basement office. According to the U.S. Attorney's Office of Minnesota, Welsh made the insurance claim fully knowing it was fraudulent as he himself had set the fire.
Welsh was the last person to leave the bar at 2:11 a.m. on Feb. 17. Eighteen minutes later, at 2:29 a.m., city surveillance showed smoke coming from the establishment. Six minutes later the smoke coming from the building was significant, and four minutes after that the fire alarms inside the neighboring Cowboy Jacks were going off.
Charging documents reveal that Welsh and his former wife bought the Press Bar in 2016 for around $850,000, having still owed approximately $550,000 on the Contract for Deed.
Welsh has a $1.3 million insurance policy that covered building repairs and another $300,000 policy for equipment repairs, leading investigators to believe there was a financial motive behind the arson.
Welsh pleaded guilty on Thursday to one count of arson, and will now await sentencing.