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Grand Jury Charges Iowa Man Previously Charged And Michigan Man With Arson Of Hamilton, Ill. Grocery Store

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 6, 2010

Springfield, Ill. – A federal grand jury today returned an indictment charging a Keokuk, Iowa man previously charged by criminal complaint, Maheshbhai Rhamanbhai Patel, 34, and Douglas Brooks, 57, of Benton Harbor, Michigan, with arson and conspiracy to commit arson related to a fire on Oct. 5, 2009, at Duck’s Red Fox Grocery store in Hamilton, Illinois. In addition, the indictment charges Patel with two counts of wire fraud, one count of mail fraud and one count of using fire in the commission of a felony offense.

Patel was arrested on Dec. 16, 2009, and charged with arson in a criminal complaint. Patel appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge John A. Gorman on Dec. 17 and was released on bond to a third party custodian in Heyworth, Illinois. The U.S. Clerk of the Court will schedule arraignment in federal court in Peoria, Illinois, for Brooks and Patel on a date to be determined by the Clerk.

According to the indictment, Patel was the sole owner of Kanha Riddhi Inc., which was doing business as Duck’s Red Fox Grocery in Hamilton, Illinois. The building and personal property of the grocery store were allegedly insured in the amount of approximately $650,000 with Kanha Riddhi, Inc., as payee in the event of a covered loss. The indictment alleges that by Oct. 4, 2009, Patel had agreed to pay Brooks to intentionally set fire to the grocery store. Patel allegedly planned to pay Brooks from insurance proceeds after making an insurance claim for damages caused by the fire. The indictment alleges Brooks traveled from Michigan to Hamilton and met with Patel at the store during the evening hours of Oct 4, 2009. Prior to setting fire to the grocery store, on Oct. 5, 2009, Brooks allegedly spray-painted graffiti at various locations in the store in an attempt to make it look as though Patel was not involved in setting the fire.

The indictment further alleges that from Oct. 4, 2009, and continuing through at least Dec. 16, 2009, Patel made a claim to the insurance company in an attempt to obtain insurance proceeds for the damage caused by the fire that Patel allegedly hired Brooks to set. In filing his insurance claim, Patel allegedly submitted false documentation to the insurance company including a notarized partial proof of loss statement.

If convicted, arson is punishable by a statutory minimum penalty of five years to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000; conspiracy to commit arson carries a statutory penalty of up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. For the offenses of wire fraud and mail fraud, each offense is punishable by up to 20 years in prison. For the offense of using fire in the commission of a felony offense, the statutory sentence is a mandatory 10 years in prison to be served consecutive to any term of imprisonment ordered for the conviction of wire and/or mail fraud.

The charges are the result of an investigation by the Hamilton Police Department; the Hamilton Fire Department; Illinois State Police; the Illinois State Fire Marshals Office, Division of Arson Investigation; the Keokuk, Iowa Police Department; and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Greggory R. Walters.

Members of the public are reminded that an indictment is merely an accusation; the defendants are presumed innocent unless proven guilty.

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