By Alexis R. Milan Staff Reporter
An MS-13 gang member was arrested and charged for last month’s arson at Kimmie’s Bar on Newtown Barracks after a sting operation by police led to a confession from the man who was initially detained for an unrelated crime.
Hilberto Romero, head of Eastern Division’s Crime Investigation Branch, disclosed that police received a confession to the crime of arson from Francisco Rodriguez who was arrested along with two other people in an extortion sting.
According to Romero, police had initially received reports from an Orange Walk businessman who claimed to have been threatened and blackmailed via phone calls and text messages.
The businessman was told to deliver an undisclosed amount of money to the Lord’s Ridge Cemetery and when it was done the money was picked up by a young boy, Maryuri Barahona.
Barahona was followed and subsequent investigations led to the arrest of Rodriguez and Edwin Flores of a Newtown Barracks address.
Flores and Barahona were arrested and charged jointly for blackmail and abetment to blackmail respectively while Rodriguez, who was wanted in Benque Viejo for armed robbery, was taken to court. There he plead -ed guilty to that crime and sentenced to five-years.
According to Romero, further police investigation led to the confession which, revealed that Rodriguez was responsible for the Kimmie’s bar fire.
Rodriguez was also charged for manslaughter in relation to that crime.
Romero also said that police believe Rodriguez did not act alone but had help from other MS-13 gang members. But only Rodriguez has been charged for that crime.
Romero also said that four other men, all MS-13 gang members, were also arrested during the initial operation and charged for gang insignia due to their MS-13 tattoos.
The fire at Kimmie’s bar last month caused the death of Jacqueline Arteaga, a 21-year-old mother of three who worked at the bar.
The blaze also destroyed three buildings, two of which were not insured.