Restaurant Owner Pleads Guilty in Plot to Burn Business

Weatherford businessman hired undercover agent as arsonist

The owner of a popular Mexican restaurant pled guilty to trying to hire an arsonist to set fire to his business, federal prosecutors announced Thursday.

Jorge Pinto, the owner of Jorge's Mexican restaurant in Weatherford, pled guilty to a charge of solicitation of arson in U.S. District Court in Fort Worth.

Prosecutors say Pinto, 55, of Weatherford, told an undercover federal agent he wanted to burn down one of his restaurants to collect $500,000 in insurance.

"He was going to torch his restaurant," assistant U.S. Attorney Bret Helmer said.

Federal agents say Pinto planned on being "at home with his family and drunk the night of the arson, thus serving as an alibi."

He also told the agent he had recently undergone heart bypass surgery and would "fake a heart attack" when informed of the fire, the complaint said.

Pinto told the undercover ATF agent posing as an arsonist that he wanted a "total loss" and would pay him 10 percent of the insurance proceeds, or $50,000, the complaint said.

Agents arrested Pinto on Jan. 7.

The agent, who claimed he was a former fireman "willing to help him with his problem," met Pinto through a confidential informant who Pinto had initially approached to burn the business, the complaint said.

The charge carries a sentence of up to 10 years in prison and a possible $125,000 fine.

Sentencing is scheduled for July 20.

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