Sunday, 14 April 2024

REGIONAL: Business owner pleads guilty in Vallejo wine warehouse arson

SACRAMENTO – On Monday a Bay Area man pleaded guilty to numerous charges for the 2005 arson of a wine warehouse in Vallejo in which millions of bottles of Napa Valley premium wines were destroyed.

United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner, along with Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives Special Agent in Charge Stephen Herkins and Internal Revenue Service Special Agent in Charge Scott O'Briant announced that Mark C. Anderson, 61, of Sausalito, pleaded guilty to 19 charges in an indictment for the Oct. 12, 2005, arson of the Wines Central warehouse in Vallejo.

The charges included one count of arson, four counts of interstate transportation of fraudulently obtained property, nine counts of mail fraud, one count of use of a fictitious name, and four counts of tax evasion stemming from the.

The case is the product of an extensive investigation by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, the Internal Revenue Service, the Vallejo Police Department, the Vallejo Fire Department and the Sausalito Police Department.

According to Assistant United States Attorney R. Steven Lapham, who is prosecuting the case, the trial was set to commence tomorrow with Deputy Attorney General Peter Williams assisting.

Anderson admitted that he set fire to the Wines Central warehouse in Vallejo on Oct. 12, 2005, and that he had been embezzling wine from his clients for many years.

In pleading guilty to the tax evasion counts Anderson also admitted that he failed to report over $800,000 in income from the sale of the embezzled wine and therefore evaded over $290,000 in taxes.

Anderson operated a business called Sausalito Cellars in which he charged wine collectors a fee for storing their wine in environmentally controlled conditions.

As part of his business, he rented approximately 2,500 square feet of space at Wines Central, a 240,000 square foot warehouse located in Vallejo, California. Most of Wines Central was dedicated to the storage of premium wine for Napa Valley wineries.

Approximately 95 Napa Valley wineries stored wine at Wines Central. Some of these wineries lost entire vintages and, in some cases, their entire inventory.

More than six million bottles of wine were destroyed in the fire, authorities reported.

After accepting the guilty plea, Judge Karlton scheduled the matter for judgment and sentencing on Jan. 26, 2010.

Under the terms of the plea agreement, the United States has agreed to recommend a sentence of 188 months.

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