Wine dealer accused of arson to appear in California court

  • Friday 11 September 2009

A trial is due to begin in Sacramento, California, of a wine dealer accused of arson.

Mark Anderson faces allegations of arson and 18 other criminal charges after a devastating fire destroyed a warehouse in Vallejo storing 6m bottles of wine belonging to Napa wineries and collectors, shortly after Anderson left the premises.

He allegedly started the fire in October 2005 after being investigated by local authorities for embezzlement.

It is claimed Anderson accepted payment from clients to store wine on the premises, then sold the wine on to merchants.

The scale of the arson is huge, with the loss from the fire estimated to be US$250m.

Incriminating comments allegedly posted by Anderson on the wine website wineexpressions.com offer evidence of his guilt; a claim strongly denied by his lawyer.

‘Even if he did send those posts, it doesn't mean he was the arsonist. He had no motive,’ Mark Reichel told the San Francisco Chronicle.

If convicted on all state charges – 11 counts of embezzlement – Anderson faces probation to 20 years in prison.

If found guilty on federal charges of arson, interstate transport of fraudulently obtained property, mail fraud, use of a fictitious name and tax evasion, it could result in life in prison.'

The trial is scheduled to take place on 17th November.

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