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Man gets 68 months, ordered to pay $567K in restitution for arson at The Refuge

Investigators were led to Bogatz because he had eaten a frosted dessert bar from the fridge at the Refuge prior to setting the fire, gotten frosting on his fingers, then opened a back door, leaving a frosted fingerprint on the door handle.

Gary John Bogatz Jr..jpg
Gary John Bogatz Jr.
Contributed/Becker County Jail
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An Elk River man has been sentenced to more than five years in prison at St. Cloud for setting the fire that seriously damaged The Refuge building in Detroit Lakes on Sept. 22, 2018.

Gary John Bogatz Jr., 41, was convicted of felony first-degree arson on June 14, following a two-day jury trial in Becker County District Court.

On July 21, District Judge Michael Fritz sentenced Bogatz to 68 months in prison, and ordered him to pay about $567,000 in restitution, to be taken from his prison pay. He was given credit for 41 days served in jail.

The fire at The Refuge led to an insurance payout of over $500,000, and the restitution will go to GuideOne Insurance of Des Moines.

Bogatz was found not guilty on a second felony count of conspiracy to commit insurance fraud.

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According to court records, after an extensive investigation, Bogatz eventually admitted to the arson. He told authorities that he and another man entered The Refuge, a religious organization, that evening to start the fire using gasoline.

Bogatz said that a few days prior to the fire, he was asked by an identified Refuge board member and another identified individual also with connections to The Refuge to start the fire.

On Sept. 18, 2018, the two individuals brought Bogatz into an office at The Refuge and told him how The Refuge would have to be shut down unless “something happened.”

Both individuals asked Bogatz for help. The individuals told him they have “a lot of fire insurance” on the building. Bogatz said he was instructed to make it look like a burglary and to burn the place down.

He said entry was made by him kicking in the back door, and that another person was with him who ignited the fire. Lawn mower gas was used to accelerate the fire.

Investigators were led to Bogatz because he had eaten a frosted dessert bar from the fridge at the Refuge prior to setting the fire, gotten frosting on his fingers, then opened a back door, leaving a frosted fingerprint on the door handle.

The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension analyzed the fingerprint recovered from the rear door-handle and matched the fingerprint to Bogatz.

The charges were the result of an investigation led by Special Agent Steve Kritzeck of the Minnesota Commerce Fraud Bureau, the Detroit Lakes Police Department, and Deputy State Fire Marshal Andrea Bexell. The case was prosecuted by Braden Sczepanski, first assistant Becker County Attorney.

Related Topics: BECKER COUNTY DISTRICT COURTCRIME AND COURTSPUBLIC SAFETY
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