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Napa Valley warehouse arsonist pleads guilty

The Sausalito wine dealer accused of arson has admitted to starting the fire which destroyed 6 million bottles of California's finest wines.

The October 2005 inferno caused an estimated $250m worth of damage at the Wines Central warehouse in California which stored bottles for about 95 Napa Valley wineries and collectors.

Mark C Anderson, 61, had allegedly started the fire to cover up his fraudulent wine storage business.

According to his lawyer, Anderson pleaded guilty on Monday to 19 federal charges including arson and tax evasion in an agreement with prosecutors to help him avoid a possible sentence of life in prison without parole.

‘He’s happy to at least put some closure on it today,’ Anderson’s lawyer Mark Reichel told the San Francisco Chronicle.

‘My client wanted to ensure he was able to enjoy some part of his life outside prison.’

As part of the plea bargain, prosecutor Steven Lapham agreed not to ask the judge for more than 15 years and eight months in prison.

Anderson has already spent three years in the Sacramento County Jail awaiting a trial, which was scheduled to begin today.

He is now due to be sentenced 26 January 2010.

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Written by James Lawrence

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