ST. CLOUD -- The owner of the Press Bar and Parlor faces federal charges after a federal grand jury indicted him on three counts related to the fire that destroyed the downtown St. Cloud bar in February.

A news release from the Stearns County Attorney's Office states the grand jury has indicted 41-year-old Andrew Welsh on charges of arson, use of a fire to commit a federal felony, and wire fraud.

According to the indictment, Welsh burned down the bar on the night of February 17th to collect approximately $1.4-million in insurance money on what had become a failing business.

The charges take the case out of state court and into federal jurisdiction where the penalties can be much higher.

Following the fire, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco Firearms and Explosives was called in to investigate. They determined Welsh was the last one to leave the bar before closing up and the fire originated on the top of his desk in the basement office.

A specially trained dog indicated the presence of an accelerant on the desk. ATF Forensic Science Laboratory testing confirmed the findings.

Court records show the ATF experts systematically ruled out all other accidental causes including appliance failure and determined the fire was intentionally lit.

Search warrants were then served at a home in Sauk Rapids where Welsh had apparently been staying after his divorce. Authorities say they found nearly $2,000 in cash inside his SUV and a bottle of Ronsonol lighter fuel on the floor of his truck.

The ATF arrested Welsh on the charges Friday.

The U.S. Attorney's Office will now be prosecuting the case.

Photo: Conner Dols
Press Bar fire. Feb. 17, 2020 (Abby Faulkner)
(Photo: Alex Svejkovsky, WJON)
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