Crime, Law and Justice

Man gets 30-month sentence for staging political arson

A garage says Biden 2020 and BLM
A photo posted to GoFundMe in September 2020 shows graffiti on the home of Denis V. Molla, who pleaded guilty to staging the vandalism and arson to collect insurance money and donations.
Screenshot via website

A judge on Thursday sentenced a Brooklyn Center man to 30 months in federal prison for staging a politically motivated arson to collect insurance money and donations.

Denis Vladmirovich Molla, 30, pleaded guilty in October to wire fraud.

Molla admitted that in the months prior to the presidential election he spraypainted “Biden 2020,” “BLM” and an anarchist symbol on his garage door before setting fire to his camping trailer.

The fire destroyed the camper, Molla’s garage and two vehicles that were parked nearby. The heat also melted the vinyl siding of his home.

In court filings, prosecutors said that when police responded, they found Molla holding an infant outside the house, and found Molla’s wife and another child inside.

Police then pulled down a fence to rescue two of the family’s dogs from the backyard; firefighters rescued a third dog.

Molla falsely told police that three unknown people affiliated with the Black Lives Matter movement and Antifa targeted him because of the Trump flag that he’d displayed on his camper.

In addition to the fraudulent police reports, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said that Molla “further leaned in to his false narrative” by giving media interviews and “aggressively pursuing insurance claims.”

One of Molla’s friends, who was unaware of the lies, set up a GoFundMe site, where Molla accepted $17,836 in donations. Molla also set up a GoFundMe site of his own, where he collected another $4,395.

He submitted about $300,000 in fraudulent insurance claims, and ultimately collected $61,263.

Investigators found that in the days before the fire, Molla was recorded on surveillance video purchasing gas cans, spray paint and Duraflame fire logs at a Menards store in Coon Rapids, Minn. Molla also repositioned his home surveillance cameras prior to setting the fire and covered them with cloth.

The aftermath of a home on fire
A photo that prosecutors included in a federal court filing shows the aftermath of the fire that Denis V. Molla set at his Brooklyn Center home in 2020.
Courtesy photo

Confronted with the evidence, Molla confessed during a final interview with investigators in 2021, more than nine months after he set the fire.

Prosecutors requested a sentence of at least 41 months, in line with federal sentencing guidelines, but Judge David Doty granted Molla’s request for a downward variance and ordered him to serve 30 months in prison plus a year of supervised release.

Doty also fined Molla $18,381 and ordered him to pay $3,850 in restitution. Doty allowed Molla to remain free until he reports to federal prison.

In a February court filing, defense attorney Ryan Garry requested a sentence of probation, and wrote that his client had already paid more than $83,000 in restitution to the insurance company and the GoFundMe donors.