Arson charges possible in restaurant fire

LYNNWOOD — Investigators are recommending first-degree arson charges against the owners of a Mexican restaurant that caught fire in south Snohomish County last fall.

The Snohomish County Fire Marshal’s Office alleges that the owners of Taqueria La Mexicana at 13915 Highway 99 torched the place as part of a scheme to get an insurance payout.

The couple, formerly of the Lynnwood area, has moved out of the region since the investigation began, officials said.

In the months since the Oct. 7 arson, the fire marshal’s team has been collecting evidence and obtaining and reviewing financial records, telephone records and insurance documents, investigator Mike Makela said.

Last week, the case was forwarded to county prosecutors for review. The case file filled an estimated 2,000 pages, Makela said.

After the fire, the couple filed an insurance claim estimating the damage to the restaurant at $120,000. They later withdrew the claim.

The restaurant remains closed, Makela said. The couple was leasing the building from the property owner.

The fire was deemed suspicious from the start. Investigators believe the blaze broke out when someone held an open flame to combustible items in two different areas of the building, Makela said.

Under state law, a person can be convicted of first-degree arson if they cause a fire or explosion on “property valued at $10,000 or more with intent to collect insurance proceeds,” among other circumstances.

Rikki King: 425-339-3449; rking@heraldnet.com

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