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Owner Of Oakland Hotel Charged With Arson Scam

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(CBS)

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OAKLAND (BCN) — The owner of a downtown Oakland residential hotel is scheduled to appear in federal court Thursday for a bail hearing after being charged with trying to hire someone to burn down the building.

Federal investigators accuse Richard Earl Singer, 44, of telling an informant last month that he wanted the seven-story Hotel Menlo destroyed in order to get the maximum insurance payout.

The allegations appeared in court records unsealed Tuesday.

Singer agreed to pay the informant $65,000 to have a “professional” set fire to the hotel, investigators with the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said. The accusation claims Singer wrote the informant a check for $1,500 for arson materials.

In a phone call recording detailed in court documents, Singer and the informant agreed the arson would be committed Jan. 15.

The Hotel Menlo and another owned by Singer are embroiled in civil litigation claiming the buildings are uninhabitable, ATF Special Agent Cynthia Cunningham said in an affidavit.

Singer’s attorney did not immediately return messages seeking comment. The San Francisco resident faces 10 years in prison and a $125,000 fine if convicted.

(© 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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