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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of Columbia

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, August 27, 2018

Church Pastor Pleads Guilty to Setting Fire to His Apartment in Scam to Collect Insurance Money

Investigation Placed Him Near Scene of Crime

            WASHINGTON – Jamel Carelock, 28, the pastor of a Baltimore church, pled guilty today to setting fire to an apartment he rented in Southeast Washington in a plan to collect insurance money, announced U.S. Attorney Jessie K. Liu, Thomas L. Chittum III, Special Agent in Charge of the Washington Field Division of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), and Peter Newsham, Chief of the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD).

            Carelock, pastor of Lead Church, pled guilty in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia to charges of arson, felony destruction of property, and second-degree insurance fraud. The trial in the case was scheduled to begin on Aug. 28, 2018. The Honorable Jennifer A. Di Toro scheduled sentencing for Oct. 26, 2018.

            According to the government’s evidence, on Dec. 17, 2017, at approximately 1 a.m., Carelock intentionally set fire to his apartment unit in a complex in the 2500 block of R Street SE. Carelock soaked his mattress with gasoline and lit the mattress on fire, causing the fire to burn and causing extensive damage to his unit and the surrounding apartments.

            The apartment complex includes 94 units, and the residents included small children and elderly individuals, who were home at the time of the fire and forced to evacuate. The fire caused more than $40,000 worth of damage and rendered at least one of the neighboring apartments uninhabitable. A law enforcement investigation revealed that Carelock had applied for an insurance policy eight days prior to the fire. He later filed a claim for more than $11,000 in damage to his property, with the intent to defraud the insurance company.

            In making the insurance claim, the evidence showed, Carelock presented materially false information. He misrepresented that he was not responsible for the fire, falsely claimed that he was in Georgia at the time of the blaze, and falsely claimed that he lost personal items, to include suits and a television. In fact, Carelock had removed those items from the unit before the fire and he still had them at the time that he made the insurance claim.

            The investigation also determined that Carelock’s cell phone was one mile away from the fire, five minutes after the fire alarm was pulled. Carelock was arrested on Jan. 19, 2018 and has been in custody ever since.

            In announcing the plea, U.S. Attorney Liu, Special Agent in Charge Chittum, and Chief Newsham commended the work of those who investigated the case from the ATF and MPD. They also expressed appreciation for the assistance provided by the District of Columbia Department of Fire and Emergency Medical Services and the FBI’s Cellular Analysis Survey Team. They acknowledged the efforts of those who worked on the case from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, including Elizabeth Trosman, Chief of the Appellate Division; Assistant U.S. Attorneys Chrisellen Kolb, Julianne Johnston, John Hill, and Veronica Sanchez; Librarian Lisa Kosow, and Paralegal Specialist Debra McPherson.

            Finally, they commended the work of Assistant U.S. Attorneys Kristina Wolf, Alissa Kempler and Melissa Price, who investigated and prosecuted the case.

Topic(s): 
Financial Fraud
Press Release Number: 
18-231
Updated August 27, 2018