Arson suspect charged in Detroit Lake’s RV business fire
DETROIT LAKES, M.N. (Valley News Live) - Nearly two months later, the man Becker County investigators say intentionally set a Detroit Lakes business on fire has been charged.
42-year-old Daniel Kaufman is charged with second degree arson and theft.
Officers and fire crews were dispatched to Wold’s RV Sales on Highway 10 in Becker County on Dec. 29 around 9:45 p.m. When crews arrived, the flames were shooting 10 to 12 feet in the air and the building was consumed by fire.
Court documents say later that evening, investigators found a set of fresh footprints and vehicle tracks at a business just east of Wold’s RV. When investigators later reviewed the business’s security footage, documents say investigators observed a white Dodge truck had pulled in behind some buildings on the property for about 20 minutes before leaving the scene.
On Dec. 30, officers were informed the suspect truck was being advertised for sale on Facebook Marketplace by Kaufman.
Later that morning, Becker County dispatch advised officers of an anonymous call claiming to have information about the fire. When officers called the number back, the male made a comment about the fire possibly being related to an angry customer and a fish house. Based upon the caller’s comments, investigators then contacted the owner of Wold’s and asked him to check his lot to ensure nothing was missing.
Documents say Wold’s called back soon after and reported a brand new fish house, valued at approximately $30,000, was missing from their lot.
Investigators received another call from unidentified male, but this time he identified himself as Kaufman. Documents say Kaufman stated he wanted to ‘clear himself’ and gave his whereabouts at the time of the fire.
Later that day, officers spoke to Kaufman, and told him that his vehicle was involved in an arson. Documents say Kaufman responded, ‘I know, I know,’ but said it ‘wasn’t him’ and asked the officers if they had video of him or his face. Kaufman admitted to being in Detroit Lakes fishing with a guy named Bill who borrowed his truck for approximately 20 minutes the night before, documents say. Kaufman stated that be believed Bill was trying to frame him.
Investigators seized Kaufman’s phone and found internet searches for ‘Arson reporting hotline,’ ‘How to report an anonymous tip,’ ‘How to make a fake car title,’ ‘How to get a title for a camper,’ ‘locating hidden GPS trackers,’ ‘MN Big Bite for Sale,’ and ‘Cheapest RV and Trailer storage facilities.’
Documents say investigators also discovered a text message conversation between Kaufman offering to sell a Big Bite Fish House to a man for $15,000. In the text thread, Kaufman said he did not have a title for the fish house, but was attempting to get one. Officers then found photos on the phone of the interior and exterior of the stolen fish house.
Investigators returned to Kaufman’s home, but documents say Kaufman denied being involved in the arson. Kaufman stated the fish house was ‘just sitting in a parking lot’ at the AmercInn hotel. Kaufman was not arrested.
The stolen fish house was later located parked at the hotel in Park Rapids, Minn. Documents also say in the center console of Kaufman’s pickup, a set of two small keys were recovered which were later found to unlock the lock placed on the stolen fish house.
On Jan. 11, investigators received GPS data of Kaufman’s phone for the night of the fire. Documents say the data placed Kaufman’s phone at Walmart in Park Rapids, Minn., and documents say surveillance from Walmart shows Kaufman’s white Dodge truck with the stolen fish house attached in the parking lot. Walmart surveillance also shows Kaufman exiting the truck and entering the Walmart store. Documents say the data next placed Kaufman’s phone at the AmericInn in Park Rapids and later pinged Kaufman in the area of Wold’s RV for approximately 20 minutes at the time of the arson.
State Fire investigators later concluded the cause of the fire was the intentional act of a person applying an open flame to available combustibles.
Becker County Attorney Brian W. McDonald tells Valley news Live that Kaufman posted a surety bond of $30,000 on February 16. He is set to be in court again this afternoon.
If convicted, Kaufman faces up to 20 years in prison.
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