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Twin Cities Trump fan accused of staging arson

A newly unsealed indictment claims a Minnesota man painted "BLM," "Biden 2020" and an anarchist "A" on his own garage before burning it down with vehicles inside.

MINNEAPOLIS (CN) —In the fall of 2020, months after protests rocked Minneapolis following the murder of George Floyd by police, a couple in one of the city’s northern suburbs made headlines locally with allegations that Joe Biden and Black Lives Matter-supporting anarchists had spray-painted their garage and burned it down. 

Denis and Deana Molla of Brooklyn Center, which borders Minneapolis’ North Side, said they were targeted for displaying a Trump 2020 flag, and lamented being victimized on the basis of their political beliefs.

”I think things have gotten way out of control,” Denis Molla, who also goes by Dennis, told the Minneapolis Star Tribune at the time. “For them to see me express my beliefs as a Republican, it’s crazy to think it came down to this.” 

On Tuesday, prosecutors unsealed an indictment alleging Molla had set fire to his own garage, with his truck and camper inside, and made the whole thing up. They charged him with two counts of wire fraud, alleging that he fraudulently received over $61,000 from insurance companies and $17,000 from donors on GoFundMe. 

“Molla submitted multiple insurance claims seeking coverage for the damage to his garage, camper, vehicles, and residence caused by the fire,” U.S. Attorney Andrew Luger’s office said in a statement Tuesday. “When Molla’s insurance company denied some of those claims, Molla submitted written complaints to the insurance company claiming that it was defrauding him and threatened to report the company to the Department of Commerce and to the Attorney General. Molla also created and allowed others to create two GoFundMe accounts to benefit Molla and his family.”

Molla submitted a total of $300,000 in claims to various insurance companies, the indictment said. Most were denied. In statements to the press at the time, the Mollas also described strangers photographing their truck, festooned with a Trump flag and an American one, and leaving feces near it. Those incidents, and whether they actually happened, didn't receive mentions in the indictment.

Red flags peppered the Mollas’ story. Their security camera was covered at the time that Denis Molla said he saw three unknown arsonists near his home, and left-wingers sneered at the idea of the same vandals painting “Biden 2020,” "BLM" and an anarchy symbol on the garage before burning it. 

Prosecutors provided few details on the case beyond Molla’s insurance claims. They gave no information on how they determined that those claims were fraudulent, other than that the decision was the result of an investigation by the Brooklyn Center Police Department and the FBI. 

Chief U.S. District Judge John Tunheim of the District of Minnesota issued a bench warrant for Molla's arrest on July 7, the same day prosecutors filed the sealed indictment.

Molla is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Angela Munoz and Kimberly Svendsen, and is represented by local defense attorney Ryan Garry, who declined to comment Wednesday.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Tony Leung ordered Molla’s release with conditions Tuesday after he posted bond. 

Only Denis Molla has been indicted. The indictment makes no mention of Deana Molla, who expressed fear for the couple's children when the arson took place. An information sheet filed by prosecutors remains sealed. 

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