REYNOLDSVILLE — A DuBois man pleaded guilty Monday to torching his Jefferson County auto repair shop in 2016 with the hopes of cashing in on the insurance payment.
John Lechiara, 52, of DuBois, pleaded guilty to arson, reckless burning or exploding, and insurance fraud charges in Jefferson County Court and was sentenced to serve 1 1/2 to 3 years in a state prison, followed by five years of probation.
He has been jailed since March, in lieu of posting $100,000 cash bail.
According to court records, the Reynoldsville Fire Department responded to Bowtie Auto on 5 N. Fifth St., where Lechiara ran an auto repair shop, after a passerby called in the alarm around 8:46 p.m. May 11, 2016.
During his testimony Fire Chief Darrin Scolese said when the department arrived smoke was coming from all four sides of the building and it hung heavy in the streets of downtown.
According to past Courier-Express articles, the fire called for a second alarm which brought units from Sykesville, Fourth and Fifth Wards in DuBois and West Sandy Fire Co. tankers in Falls Creek. McCalmont, Sykesville and Knox Township responded to provide extra water.
Approximately 65 firefighters battled the blaze, which was contained within 40 minutes.
The building was unoccupied at the time of the fire, and there were no injuries. Damage was estimated at more than $100,000.
Once extinguished, a state police fire marshal was called to investigate. He determined the fire had started in a small crawl space located in the subfloor of the garage where shop rags had been ignited.
Lechiara had two insurance policies on the building at the time of the fire.
One had been cancelled earlier that day but was still valid until midnight.
Another had been opened several weeks before the fire at a higher rate of insurance coverage and using untrue information about the business’ operations (including how much the business made annually, improvements that had been made, and about its day-to-day operations).