The pastor of a Baltimore church has pleaded guilty to setting fire to an apartment building in order to collect insurance money.
Jamel Carelock, 28, senior pastor of LEAP Church, pleaded guilty to charges of arson, felony destruction of property, and second-degree insurance fraud. Prosecutors said that in December of 2017, Carelock soaked his mattress with gasoline and set fire to it, causing extensive damage to his apartment and surrounding units.
Carelock’s complex included 94 units, and the residents included small children and the elderly, who were forced to evacuate during the fire. The blaze caused more than $40,000 worth of damage and rendered at least one of the neighboring apartments uninhabitable, according to the US Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia.
Investigations revealed that Carelock had applied for an insurance policy just eight days before the fire. He later filed a claim for more than $11,000 in property damage. Carelock stated in his insurance claim that he was not responsible for the fire and that he lost several personal items – items that he had actually removed from the apartment prior to starting the blaze. He also claimed to be in Georgia at the time of the fire, but an investigation revealed that his cell phone was just one mile from the fire five minutes after the alarm was pulled.
Carelock’s sentencing has been scheduled for October.