South Jersey Couple Admit Conspiring to Set Fire to Historic Diner
CAMDEN, N.J. – A Cumberland County, New Jersey, married couple today admitted planning to destroy a historic diner they owned in Bridgeton, New Jersey, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.
Andrew Webster, 49, and Brenda Webster, 44, both of Cedarville, New Jersey, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Robert B. Kugler in Camden federal court to separate informations charging them each with one count of conspiracy to commit arson.
According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:
In March 2012, Andrew and Brenda Webster purchased and operated Angie’s Bridgeton Grill, a nearly 75-year old diner that was listed on the New Jersey and National Register of Historic Places in 2012.
Soon after they began to operate the diner, the Websters experienced several months of poor financial performance. During their plea hearings, Andrew and Brenda Webster admitted that they agreed to destroy the diner by fire. They also admitted that on Oct. 23, 2012, they traveled to the diner in Andrew’s truck.
According to the charges, in the early morning hours of Oct. 24, 2012, the Websters entered the diner, collected combustible materials (including newspapers, paper menus, and other light-weight combustible materials), doused them with gasoline, and ignited them with an open flame. Brenda Webster suffered burns to her body when gasoline vapors inside the diner ignited. The two quickly exited and within a short period of time, the fire destroyed the diner.
Sentencing for both Andrew Webster and Brenda Webster is set for May 14, 2015. Both were released on bail subject to a $50,000 unsecured bond and travel restrictions.
U.S. Attorney Fishman credited the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge George Belsky; the Cumberland County Prosecutors Office, under the direction of Prosecutor Jennifer Webb-McRae; and the Bridgeton Police Department, under the direction of Chief Mark Ott, for the investigation leading to today’s guilty pleas.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew T. Smith of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Criminal Division in Camden.
Andrew Webster: Richard Coughlin Esq., Assistant Federal Public Defender, Camden
Brenda Webster: Joseph Hoffman III Esq., Turnersville, New Jersey.