Ohio Diner Owner on Trial in 2007 Downtown Arson

September 7, 2010

A former accountant for a restaurant owner accused of starting a fire that burned most of a downtown block in Wauseon, Ohio, testified that the restaurant was losing money before the fire.

The fire in 2007 destroyed the restaurant, a real estate office, computer shop, clothing store, health food store, photo studio and a small church that served members of the Hispanic community.

The restaurant’s owner, Charles Bryan Jr., was charged with both arson and insurance fraud.

His attorney has tried to show Bryan was talking with a banker about buying out his partner’s share of the restaurant before the fire and that a disgruntled employee could have been involved in the blaze.

Michael Fischer, who handled payroll and financial statements for the restaurant, testified Wednesday in Fulton County Common Pleas Court that a 2006 corporate tax return showed a loss.

A salesman for a bakery also testified that Bryan was late paying a bill and didn’t pay until just a few days before the fire.

“He just told me, ‘I don’t know if we’re going to need your services anymore. I’ll call you and let you know,'” said Curtis Philpot.

The fire destroyed several buildings that were more than 100 years old in the heart of the town about 30 miles west of Toledo.

More than a dozen fire departments helped fight the fire.

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