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Man faces federal felony charges related to fire at liquor store

The U.S. Attorney's Office is filing a federal charge of arson on top of existing state charges in a reported arson case. The defendant is accused of setting fire to a liquor store in December after being refused service. If convicted of the federal charge, the man could be sentenced up to 20 years in prison.

Authorities claim that security footage depicts a man breaking into a Wisconsin liquor and convenience store on Dec. 11. The man on the videotape is seen pouring wine and alcohol from other bottles onto the floor. At some point, smoke begins to pour out of the building. The local fire chief said there was "substantial" damage to the convenience store side of the business and to the inventory of both parts of the store, though it has since re-opened.

Police believed the man on the video resembled the suspect and arrested him. The store's owner told investigators that he had refused service to the suspect the day before the fire because he appeared to be intoxicated. The suspect was arrested for shoplifting from another liquor store later that day.

The Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives conducted its own investigation of the fire. It turned the results of that investigation to the local U.S. Attorney's Office, which filed a charge of arson affecting interstate commerce.

It is not clear how the fire affected interstate commerce. The federal arson charge carries a potential prison sentence of five to 20 years. The suspect was still in state custody as of Jan. 27.

Source: La Crosse Tribune, "Sparta man charged with torching liquor store could face 20 years," Kevin Murphy, Jan. 27, 2012

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