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April 13, 2023
A vegan food-truck owner has been charged with arson, insurance fraud, and grand theft, after allegedly destroying his truck and claiming to be the victim of a “series of hate crimes.”
Twenty-six-year-old Avonte Hartsfield, who is black and gay, previously claimed that his food truck was intentionally lit on fire after alleging that someone had cut his truck’s electrical lines and placed a noose over his office door in the days prior to the fire.
He started a GoFundMe campaign over the incident and received at least $102,000 from more than 2,100 donor.
Prosecutors now believe Hartsfield intentionally started the fire and then submitted a fake insurance claim. The prosecutors said that the funds raised through GoFundMe were made under false pretenses.
Hartsfield pled not-guilty to the charges on Tuesday, accusing police of failing to properly investigate the incident.
“They only investigated me,” Hartsfield said. “I guess we get to expose the system at this point, so I’m excited for that opportunity.”
Hartsfield attempted to give the charity funds back to donors in March, revealing that an unknown source informed him that his leased truck’s fire was caused by an “electrical mishap.”
“Whether that was caused by the vandalism to our electrical system or not, I definitely want to be transparent as I found that information out I wanted to immediately make it available,” Hartsfield said. “Knowing the fire was not decided as arson could influence your donation and I wanted to give everyone an opportunity to request a refund.”
Hartsfield faces up to seven years and four months in prison if convicted.
ARTICLE: PAUL MURDOCH
MANAGING EDITOR: CARSON CHOATE