Two men accused of arson, insurance fraud while setting up another man as the suspect
The men did not have legal representation on Oct. 11
FARMINGTON — Two San Juan County men are accused of committing arson and insurance fraud by working together to set a pickup truck on fire and collect insurance money while setting up another man to take the fall.
Patrick Roller, 54, is accused of a second-degree felony count of false insurance application, a third-degree felony count of solicitation to commit arson and a misdemeanor count of making a false police report, according to his criminal complaint.
Louis Lawrence, 46, is accused of a second-degree felony count of arson, a third-degree felony count of conspiracy to commit arson and tampering with evidence and a misdemeanor count of illegal dumping, according to his criminal complaint.
The men did not have legal representation on the morning of Oct. 11.
The investigation was launched by the San Juan County Sheriff's Office on Sept. 13 after a detective working on an unrelated case discovered phone calls involving Roller and Lawrence discussing Roller's 2012 white Chevrolet pickup truck possibly being set on fire.
Roller allegedly stated a man not charged in the case had made threats to steal and burn his truck, according to court documents.
Roller also allegedly told Lawrence they should get everything of value out of the truck before it happens and hesitates before saying, "if you know what I mean," according to court documents.
In a series of phone calls, Roller is accused of telling a female not charged that his truck is still insured for $25,000 and that he had a feeling his truck was going to end up gone.
"Shockingly," the detective wrote in the affidavit, the Sheriff's Office got a phone call on Sept. 15 from San Juan County Fire that a vehicle fire behind SunRay Park & Casino appeared to be intentionally started.
Specialized equipment for investigating fires detected a large amount of hydrocarbons throughout the cab of the truck, suggesting a flammable liquid was poured into the truck's cab to help ignite a fire, the affidavits state.
Shoe impressions and tire impressions of a second vehicle were found near the scene.
Roller is accused of reporting his vehicle stolen to the Sheriff's Office on Sept. 16 and that a certain man was believed to be responsible.
On Sept. 23, Roller filed a claim with an insurance company, which contacted the detective to set up a time to evaluate the vehicle.
The detective spoke to the man Roller stated probably stole his truck and ruled him out as a suspect.
Lawrence was pulled over for a traffic stop on Sept. 28 along U.S. Highway 550 between Aztec and Bloomfield.
After photos were taken of Lawrence's shoes and the tires on the truck he was driving, detectives believed them to be an exact match of shoe and tire impressions at the scene of the arson.
Lawrence claimed he did not set fire to Roller's truck, according to court documents.
A detective noticed several gas cans in the bed of the truck.
Lawrence was released on his own recognizance from the San Juan County Adult Detention Center.
Roller is being incarcerated on a $2,500 cash at 10 percent bond in the county jail. He waived his right to a preliminary hearing on Oct. 10.
Lawrence's preliminary hearing is set for Oct. 17 in Aztec Magistrate Court.
Joshua Kellogg covers breaking news for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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