Four Individuals Indicted For Conspiracy To Commit Arson
SAN JUAN, P.R. – On May 10, 2018, a federal grand jury in the District of Puerto Rico returned an indictment against four defendants charged with conspiracy to commit arson in furtherance of wire fraud, wire fraud, and other arson related charges, announced Rosa Emilia Rodríguez-Vélez, United States Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) is in charge of the investigation.
According to the information contained in the indictment, from May until July 2016, defendants Rafael García-Sánchez, Jean Gabriel García-Charbonier, and Jesús Torres-Lazzu, a.k.a. “Bimbo,” conspired to use fire to commit the offense of wire fraud. They agreed to set the physical premises of Organización Pro Ayuda a Personas con Impedimentos (OPAPI) in Río Grande, PR on fire for the purpose of collecting insurance proceeds, and in furtherance of this scheme, García-Sánchez caused items to be sent and delivered by wire in interstate commerce.
Rafael García-Sánchez solicited assistance from Jean Gabriel García-Charbonier, Jesús Torres-Lazzu, and Christian Aponte-Charbonier to set on fire the physical premises of OPAPI in order to file a fraudulent insurance claim with Universal Insurance Company. Christian Aponte-Charbonier (now deceased), with the assistance of his brother Jean Gabriel García-Charbonier, and Jesús Torres-Lazzu set fire to the physical premises of OPAPI, causing damage to said premises and its contents. While starting the fire, Christian Aponte-Charbonier suffered major burn injuries and died because of said injuries on July 10, 2016. García-Sánchez, aided and abetted by others, filed a fraudulent claim for $250,000.00 with Universal Insurance Company in connection with the damages at OPAPI in Río Grande.
On July 11, 2016, Jean Gabriel García-Charbonier falsely reported to agents of the Puerto Rico Police Department that Christian Aponte-Charbonier sustained his burn injuries while working with an electric generator at the premises of OPAPI Casa Dorada in Yabucoa, Puerto Rico, a story that he concocted with Rafael García-Sánchez and Raúl García-Sánchez. After reporting this false information, García-Charbonier accompanied agents of the PR Police Department to the premises of OPAPI Casa Dorada, where they encountered a staged accident scene with a fire-damaged electric generator.
The fourth defendant, Raúl García-Sánchez is charged with one count of accessory after the fact for assisting the other defendants in staging an accident scene involving a fire-damaged electric generator at the premises of OPAPI located in Yabucoa. Raúl García-Sánchez is also charged in one count of obstruction of justice for his role in attempting to cover up the crime.
“Rafael García-Sanchez solicited members of his family to commit an act of violence in an effort to fraudulently collect insurance. The defendants then devised a scheme to conceal their unlawful acts, and the death of Christian Aponte-Charbonier,” said Rosa Emilia Rodríguez-Vélez, US Attorney for the District of PR. “Insurance fraud, particularly when it results in loss of life, is a serious criminal act and our office will continue to investigate and prosecute to the full extent of the law.”
ATF Miami Field Division Special Agent in Charge Ari C. Shapira said: “I am proud of the hard working and dedicated men and women of ATF who utilized a broad array of investigative resources to successfully investigate this violent crime. In partnership with the US Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico we will continue to fight against lawlessness and protect the public.”
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Alexander Alum and Edward Veronda. If convicted, defendants García-Sánchez, García-Charbonier, and Torres-Lazzu face up to life in prison and García-Sánchez is facing up to 20 years in prison. An indictment contains only charges and is not evidence of guilt. Defendants are presumed to be innocent unless and until proven guilty.
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