Jury convicts hereford house owner of arson conspiracy
owner, two others face at least 15 years in prison
for fire that destroyed landmark restaurant
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – David M. Ketchmark, Acting United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, announced that an owner of the Hereford House restaurant and two men he hired were convicted in federal court today of their roles in an arson conspiracy that destroyed the landmark downtown Kansas City restaurant on Oct. 20, 2008.
Rodney J. Anderson, 59, Vincent Pisciotta, 58, and Mark A. Sorrentino, 46, all of Kansas City, were each found guilty of one count of conspiracy to commit arson and mail fraud, one count of arson and one count of using fire to commit a federal felony. Anderson was also found guilty of one count of mail fraud. Anderson, Pisciotta and Sorrentino were immediately taken into federal custody following the announcement of the jury’s verdicts.
Anderson is a co-owner of B & C Restaurant Corporation, a holding company that owned the Hereford House restaurant business. Anderson is also a co-owner of Hereford K.C. Realty, LLC, which owned the building at 2 E. 20th Street, Kansas City, Mo., in which the Hereford House was located, and a co-owner of Skivers Corporation, a restaurant management company that managed the Hereford House and other area restaurants.
Evidence introduced during the trial indicated that in 2007 and 2008, the Hereford House restaurant at the downtown location was struggling financially. The struggles stemmed from the need to upgrade or remodel the aging restaurant and from the increased competition from new restaurants at the Power and Light District. Anderson sought offers to buy the property, remodel the property and lease the property back to his restaurant operating group. In August 2008, the last offer Anderson received was too costly to make the transaction profitable. In 2008, Anderson personally infused hundreds of thousands of dollars into the restaurant and was on the verge of personal bankruptcy. The sources of Anderson’s cash infusion included high-rate business “payday” loans, and money from his 401(k), his mother’s IRA and from his children’s trust accounts.
Anderson hired Pisciotta to set fire to the restaurant in order to collect the insurance proceeds that would pay for the remodeling that was needed for the restaurant to regain its prominence. Anderson met with Pisciotta at the Hereford House on Sept. 27, 2008. Anderson showed him around for about 50 minutes and gave him a key and a security alarm code so that Pisciotta and Sorrentino could gain entry into the Hereford House and deactivate the security alarm system.
On Oct. 12, 2008, Pisciotta and Sorrentino (accompanied by an unidentified co-conspirator) used the key and alarm code Anderson had provided to enter the Hereford House and conduct a walk-through in preparation for setting fire to the building.
On Oct. 19, 2008, Pisciotta used the key and security code to enter the Hereford House shortly before midnight. A short time later, Sorrentino arrived with the unidentified co-conspirator in a white van and the three men unloaded 14 plastic containers. Those containers were filled with gasoline and were placed throughout the bar area of the restaurant and ignited. At approximately 12:44 a.m. on Oct. 20, 2008, a 911 call dispatched the Kansas City Fire Department to the restaurant after an explosion at the location. The fire department arrived quickly and was able to extinguish the fire, although the restaurant was destroyed.
Anderson was out of town at the time of the arson and the company’s CFO provided the ATF with the digital video surveillance from the restaurant’s surveillance cameras. Anderson’s meeting with Pisciotta on Sept. 27, 2008 was captured on the video surveillance, along with the Oct. 12, 2008 walk-through by Pisciotta and Sorrentino. Additionally, on Oct. 19-20, 2008 Pisciotta and Sorrentino can be seen on the video surveillance unloading the plastic containers of gasoline and placing them in the bar area of the restaurant before setting an ignition device.
About a month after the fire, Anderson requested an advance payment of $300,000 from Travelers Property Casualty Company of America, which provided insurance coverage for the building and contents of the Hereford House. The check, which was sent by Travelers via overnight delivery, provides the basis for the mail fraud charge in Count Three of the indictment. Anderson also claimed a loss of $962,593 on the Hereford House building and a loss of $1,459,505 on behalf of B & C Restaurant Corporation, for a total claimed loss of $2,422,098.
Following the presentation of evidence, the jury in the U.S. District Court in Kansas City, Mo., deliberated for about eight hours over two days before returning the guilty verdict to U.S. District Judge Greg Kays, ending a trial that began Monday, Oct. 22, 2012.
Under federal statutes, Anderson is subject to a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years in federal prison without parole, up to a sentence of 55 years in federal prison without parole, plus a fine up to $1 million. Pisciotta and Sorrentino are each subject to a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years in federal prison without parole, up to a sentence of 35 years in federal prison without parole, plus a fine up to $750,000. Sentencing hearings will be scheduled after the completion of presentence investigations by the United States Probation Office.This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Paul S. Becker and Jess E. Michaelsen. It was investigated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Kansas City, Mo., Police Department, the Kansas City, Mo., Fire Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.