Sausalito Man Pleads Guilty to Wine Warehouse Arson

November 17, 2009

A man who lived the high life in Sausalito pled guilty yesterday to setting a fire that destroyed a warehouse filled with 6 million bottles of wine and to selling wine he was supposed to be storing for customers.

The value of the wines lost has been estimated at $250 million to $400 million. Much of it was insured.

The man, 61-year-old Mark Anderson, admitted guilt on 19 federal charges including arson, mail fraud and tax evasion Monday. The agreement saved Anderson from facing possible life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.

Anderson admitted setting the fire in October 2005 at the Wines Central warehouse on Mare Island, near Vallejo. The warehouse stored bottles for about 95 Napa Valley wineries and collectors. Anderson was a tenant in the warehouse and had been evicted but had not yet moved his stores off the premises at the time of the fire, according to the Napa Register newspaper.

As part of the plea agreement, federal prosecutors agreed not to ask for more than 15 years and eight months in prison, said Anderson’s Sacramento-based attorney Mark Reichel said.

“We can go in and ask for a lot less than that and we plan to do that,” he said.

Since his arrest, Anderson has spent three years in the Sacramento County Jail awaiting a trial. That time probably will be credited to his sentence.

Anderson reportedly lived a fairly lavish lifestyle that he supported by embezzling wine from his clients and selling it to a restaurant in Chicago and others in Northern California.

His sentencing is presently set for Jan. 26.

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