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Press Release

Denver Developer Pleads Guilty To Arson In Conjunction With Grove Street Fire

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Colorado

DENVER – United States Attorney Jason R. Dunn announced that Michael Marte, age 54, of Denver, pleaded guilty today before U.S. District Court Judge William J. Martinez to one count of arson in connection with the fire at 1920 and 1930 Grove Street.  Marte appeared at the hearing in custody, and was remanded at the hearing's conclusion.  He is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Martinez on March 25, 2020, to an agreed upon mandatory 10 years in federal prison.

According to the stipulated facts contained in the plea agreement, starting in approximately May of 2017, the defendant was hired by an Australian real estate developer to oversee a substantial construction project in West Denver.  The developer had purchased two residential lots for redevelopment on Grove Street.  The project consisted of scrapping two single home residences and replacing them with two separate multi-unit buildings on each lot.  Each building would consist of a three-story townhome, each with 7 units.  Marte was paid an annual salary of $200,000 to supervise the construction.  The project continued into early 2018, when both buildings were in the final phase, complete with roofing, siding, doors and windows.  Interior finishing touches were still needed.

On May 10, 2018, the developer travelled to Denver from Australia for purposes of meeting with the developer and inspecting the progress of the project.  However, around 2:00 a.m. on May 10, 2018, while the developer was still on a plane to Denver, both buildings became engulfed in a fire which caused total destruction of both units.  The loss was estimated at $4 million.  The Denver Fire Department characterized the fire as a “three-alarm blaze” meaning it required approximately half of Denver’s Fire Department to extinguish it.  They fought the fire for approximately 8 hours.

Denver Fire Investigators and ATF agents quickly suspected arson.  One key piece of evidence was surveillance from a video doorbell camera, which was provided by a nearby resident.  It showed a vehicle identical to the defendant’s driving into the area shortly before the blaze began.  It also showed large billows of smoke and flames rising from the buildings.  Another surveillance video showed a man of Marte’s description quickly walking away after the fire started.  Investigators found clothes that had fire accelerant on them that were matched to the defendant through DNA.

During construction Marte bought an insurance policy for $4 million dollars.  Shortly after the fire he quickly attempted to obtain the insurance money.  Those attempts failed. 

 “Arson for profit or any other reason is a crime, and the defendant got caught red handed thanks to the great work of the ATF and Denver Fire Department,” said U.S. Attorney Jason Dunn.  “Because of his conduct, he’ll have 10 years in federal prison to think about his actions.  Thankfully no residents or fire fighters were hurt as a result of his selfish actions.”

“Arson is a crime of violence that will not be tolerated,” said Acting Special Agent in Charge Bradley Engelbert.  “ATF’s partnership with the Denver Fire Department, whose  work was instrumental in the success of this investigation, will continue to ensure the safety of our communities.”

This case was investigated by the Denver Division of the ATF and the Denver Fire Department.  The defendant is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Tim Neff.


Jeff Dorschner
Spokesman, Public Affairs Officer
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Colorado
303-454-0243 direct; 303-454-0400 fax

Updated November 27, 2019

Press Release Number: CASE NUMBER: 19-cr-00573