Baltimore pastor pleads guilty to setting apartment on fire in insurance scheme

WASHINGTON — The pastor of a Baltimore church pleaded guilty Monday to setting fire to an apartment he rented in Southeast D.C in a scheme to collect insurance money.

The Department of Justice; Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, and the D.C. police said in a statement that Jamel Carelock, pastor of Lead Church, intentionally set fire to his apartment on Dec. 17, 2017, around 1 a.m. by soaking his mattress with gasoline and lighting the mattress on fire.

The fire caused more than $40,000 worth of damage and left at least one neighboring apartment uninhabitable at the complex in the 2500 block of R Street. Residents, including small children, were forced to evacuate.

Carelock pleaded guilty in D.C. Superior Court to arson, felony destruction of property and second-degree insurance fraud. He was arrested Jan. 19 and has been in custody since.

The pastor had applied for an insurance policy a mere eight days before the fire and later filed a claim for more than $11,000 in damage to his property, intending to defraud the insurance company, prosecutors said.

Carelock claimed he was not responsible for the fire, saying he was in Georgia at the time, and telling officials that he lost personal items including suits and a television. Prosecutors said he had removed these items before the fire and still had them when he filed the insurance claim.

They added that his cellphone was also one mile away from the fire, five minutes after the fire alarm was pulled.

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