Bookkeeper Convicted of Burning Down San Diego Business to Cover up Missing $700,000

Bookkeeper Convicted of Burning Down San Diego Business to Cover up Missing $700,000

Firefighters battle the blaze at Off Road Warehouse in the Kearny Mesa area of San Diego on March 28, 2019. (U.S. Attorney's Office)

California Insider Staff

California Insider Staff

4/9/2024

Updated: 4/9/2024

A bookkeeper was convicted April 8 for intentionally setting fire to a Kearney Mesa business to cover up the disappearance of more than $700,000, the United States Attorney’s Office said in an April 8 statement.
Carey Alice Hernandez, 46, was found guilty by jurors of malicious destruction of a building by means of fire, witness tampering and making false statements after a four-day trial for what prosecutors called a “multimillion-dollar loss,” according to the statement.
“ATF’s National Response Team responded to this multimillion-dollar loss within 24 hours determining the fire was deliberately set,” said Chris Bombardiere, the special agent in charge of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) in the statement.
Ms. Hernandez was a bookkeeper for Off Road Warehouse, also known as ORW, located at 7915 Balboa Avenue in Kearny Mesa, which sold and installed automotive parts and gear. Kearny Mesa is a community 10 miles north of downtown San Diego.
An audit of the business was conducted after the owner decided to sell it in late 2018, only to find that $744,621 had gone missing between January 2015 and March 2019, authorities said.
The jury concluded that Ms. Hernandez had started the fire in the early morning hours of March 28, 2019.
Authorities said the building burned to the ground but nobody was injured.
“While it is extremely fortunate that no one was physically hurt in this blaze, it was a devastating loss for the company,” said U.S. Attorney Tara McGrath. “This defendant used arson, tampering with witnesses, and deceit to put the community in danger, but the jury held her accountable.”
Surveillance footage presented as evidence showed that an dark-wheeled SUV driven to the business shortly before the fire was the same one seen driving close to Ms. Hernandez’s residence in Point Loma, prosecutors said.
Authorities then said the same SUV was seen driving back to the home after the business had been set ablaze.
Ms. Hernandez was convicted of witness tampering and false statements after lying to ORW employees and to special agents by saying that her vehicle’s wheel rims were light and not dark, which contradicted surveillance footage.
Ms. Hernandez’s sentencing is scheduled for July 12, 2024. She faces up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for the malicious destruction charge and the witness tampering charge and up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine for the false statements charge.
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