Vendor from San Diego’s food truck industry gets over Five years in Jail for Fraud and Arson

San Diego, CA: A San Diego food truck vendor was sentenced to over five years in state jail. Authorities alleged that the vendor burned down the vehicle to collect insurance and donation money.

Rollin Roots, Avonte Hartsfield’s food truck, caught fire in a Kearny Mesa parking lot more than two years ago. In February, a jury in San Diego Superior Court found him guilty of arson, insurance fraud, and grand larceny; Hartsfield represented himself during the trial.

While he was being sentenced, Hartsfield insisted he was innocent. He denied receiving over $300,000 in donations and insurance proceeds following the fire and claimed that Deputy District Attorney Judy Taschner neglected to locate him at the site of the crime.

The prosecutor asked Judge Kimberlee Lagotta to sentence Hartsfield to five years and four months in prison and to order him to repay his victims, citing his lack of accountability as one of the reasons.

Before rendering her verdict, Lagotta concurred with the prosecution, stating that Hartsfield committed his crimes with “planning, sophistication and professionalism,” and that he exhibited no remorse.

After “preying upon the vulnerable and good nature of our community in stealing over $300,000 from various community members who contributed based upon his fraudulent representations,” she claimed Hartsfield was responsible.

Prosecutors started looking into Hartsfield’s case not long after his automobile caught fire in an Amour Street parking lot on October 3, 2021. The car was completely wrecked.

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Hartsfield utilized social media and GoFundMe to reestablish his business. The community’s contributions and insurance payouts started pouring in, totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars. The Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Nation contributed $20,000 of that total.

After Hartsfield reported that his workplace had a noose and that his van had been the object of several break-ins prior to the fire, his narrative became widely circulated in the media. The fire was allegedly set by someone motivated by hate, according to Hartsfield, a Black man.

But investigators from the police department discovered surveillance film that connected Hartsfield to the fire. The tape showed a car that looked identical to Hartsfield’s in the area both before and after the incident. Prior to the fire, investigators found searches on his Google account, one of which had the phrase “quick car explosion” around one week before.

Hartsfield identified himself as the man in the video but denied starting the fire in subsequent phone conversations with authorities. According to him, the fire started because a rice cooker exploded.

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According to Taschner, there was no proof of the break-ins or vandalism that had been reported to the police prior to the fire. She went on to say that a fire investigator had determined that the scientific evidence did not back up the allegation that the rice cooker was the culprit.

This past month, during his closing argument, Hartsfield claimed that his confessions to the police were false and the result of coercion.

April 22 is the date set for his restitution hearing.

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