WILKES-BARRE — The owner of a building in Wyoming that was damaged by fire in May was charged Friday with setting the blaze.
Christopher A. Jones, 44, of Chestnutwood Drive, Wilkes-Barre, was charged Friday morning with two felony counts of arson and an additional felony count of reckless burning.
Jones was behind on mortgage payments and property tax, according to court papers.
District Judge Joseph Carmody arraigned Jones, and then immediately held a preliminary hearing at which the two arson charges were dismissed.
Jones now faces the reckless burning charge at a formal arraignment in Luzerne County Court on Nov. 1. He is free on $10,000 unsecured bail.
The fire damaged a three-story building at 87 Wyoming Ave., which was most recently KB Guilford’s Pub. It closed earlier this year.
It was originally the Union Hotel when it was built more than a century ago.
According to a criminal complaint, Jones told police at the scene of the fire that he was doing renovations and had been working on the building for about an hour.
Jones allegedly said he used linseed oil to redo the bar because it had been sold. He used rags, put them in a cardboard box and placed them in a wood cabinet in the basement, Jones said.
Jones said he was not in the building when the fire started, but was not that far away when he got a call that the building was burning.
State Trooper Ronald Jarocha, a fire marshal, investigated the fire and determined it began in the basement. Another fire investigator examined the scene, court papers state, and he determined the blaze also began in the basement in the area of the wood cabinet.
During an interview with an insurance company, Jones allegedly told the individual he was $3,705 behind on his mortgage and that he was selling the building for $350,000 but dropped the price to $250,000 recently because no one was interested in it.
Court papers state Jarocha went to the Luzerne County Tax Claim Bureau where he learned Jones was behind on his taxes on the property for three years, owing $17,021, and that the property was listed for tax sale on Aug. 22, 2013.
Jones was interviewed on Aug. 5 at the office of his attorney, Frank Nocito, where he said in a moment of weakness, he took his lighter out of his pocket and set the fire, the criminal complaint states.
Jones allegedly said “the weight of the world” was on his shoulders, the property was up for sheriff sale, he was behind on his mortgage, his debt was mounting and his daughter was dealing with a sickness.