An investigation has uncovered that a property owner set his own homes on fire and framed the incidents as an anti-Latino hate crime, while the true motivation was related to financial problems.
According to investigators, homeowner George Carneiro set fire to his two homes because he was falling behind in payments.
Another day, another hate crime hoax, en fuego edition 🔥 🤷🏿♂️ pic.twitter.com/HAd5w9Y0qR
— AK Kamara (@realakkamara) June 1, 2023
The Clay County Sheriff’s Office has announced that the two house fires — which initially appeared to be rooted in racism — were actually staged by Carneiro, who is now facing charges.
The arson occurred on March 13 in the Clay Hill neighborhood roughly 36 miles southwest of Jacksonville, Florida. The fires that Carneiro allegedly set in his two newly built homes caused “substantial property damage,” according to officials.
“The investigation led to Carneiro following the discovery of a video from March 12, 2023, which captured one of Carneiro’s employees purchasing fuel tanks with cash at a Walmart,” the sheriff’s office stated, according to the Miami Herald. “This video evidence was key in establishing a connection between Carneiro and the arson. Carneiro owned the homes that were burned, and bank records revealed that he was significantly behind on his payments. …The fires were originally staged with false evidence of a hate crime to conceal the true motive.”
The outlet went on to note that detectives obtained a warrant to “geographically track” Carneiro’s whereabouts during the time of the fires.
After uncovering his role in the arson, police charged Carneiro with “burning to defraud the insurer and false and fraudulent insurance claims related to arson,” the Miami Herald reported, citing the sheriff’s office.
While the investigators have not yet unveiled the specifics of the hoax racist messages, local news outlet WTLV-TV has reported that handwritten signs were found at the scene indicating opposition to Latinos moving into the neighborhood.
According to a neighbor who spoke with another local outlet, WJAX-TV, a sign placed on the front of the house read: “This is our land … Latinos are not welcome.”
A March 13 Facebook post from Clay County Sheriff Michelle Cook also noted that they were investigating the incident as a hate crime, stating: “The messages left behind indicated a potential bias based motive.”