Man Sentenced to 149 Months in Prison for Conspiracy to Commit Arson

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FILE PHOTO: American flag waves outside the U.S. Department of Justice Building in Washington

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – Rafael García-Sánchez was sentenced to 12 years and five months in prison for conspiracy to commit arson in furtherance of wire fraud and wire fraud, announced W. Stephen Muldrow, United States Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) investigated the case.

According to court documents, from May until July 2016, defendants Rafael García-Sánchez, Jean Gabriel García-Charbonier, and Jesús Torres-Lazzu, a.k.a. “Bimbo,” conspired to set a fire to commit insurance fraud through wire communications.  The conspirators  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.

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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 and then file a fraudulent insurance claim with Universal Insurance Company. Christian Aponte-Charbonier (now deceased), set fire to OPAPI with the assistance of his brother Jean Gabriel García-Charbonier, and Jesús Torres-Lazzu , causing damage to the premises and their contents. While starting the fire, Christian Aponte-Charbonier suffered major burns and died from his 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.

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On July 11, 2016, Jean Gabriel García-Charbonier falsely reported to agents of the Puerto Rico Police Bureau (PRPB) 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 PRPB to the premises of OPAPI Casa Dorada, where they encountered a staged accident scene with a fire-damaged electric generator.

Raúl García-Sánchez was 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, and ultimately pled guilty to misprision of a felony. Jean Gabriel García-Charobonier and Jesús Torres-Lazzu also pled guilty and served terms of imprisonment because of their role in the scheme.

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U.S. Attorney W. Stephen Muldrow of the District of Puerto Rico; and Christopher A. Robinson, Special Agent in Charge of ATF Miami Field Division made the announcement.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Alexander Alum prosecuted the case.

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