A Baton Rouge man charged with burning down his Prairieville restaurant in 2015 to collect insurance money was accused this week of setting fire to his Jones Creek Road eatery last year to pocket more insurance proceeds.
Jonathan Paul Marino, 37, of 14310 Meadow Ridge Way Drive, was indicted by an East Baton Rouge Parish grand jury Thursday on arson with intent to defraud and injury by arson. The charges involved a March 2017 blaze at The Cast Iron Kitchen.
Marino was already facing arson-related fraud charges in Ascension Parish as a result of a blaze three years ago that destroyed his Prairieville restaurant, The Italian Bowl.
A Baton Rouge man is accused of purposely setting fire to his new restaurant on Jones Creek Road in March 2017 and fraudulently collecting ins…
The Cast Iron Kitchen had been open only seven months in the 5400 block of Jones Creek when it was destroyed. The fire sent one firefighter to the hospital with minor injuries when part of the ceiling collapsed.
Marino's attorney, James Rothkamm, said Friday that Marino has pleaded not guilty in the Ascension case. The restaurateur has not been arraigned in the Baton Rouge case.
“We want to wait and let all the facts come out before anyone makes a rush to judgment,” Rothkamm said. “We disagree with a lot of the allegations made by the state fire marshal.”
Marino was arrested in February and accused of purposely setting fire to The Cast Iron Kitchen on March 12, 2017. Video surveillance shows Marino leaving the restaurant, which was closed, and within 10 minutes passing motorists and neighboring tenants noticed the building was on fire, an arrest warrant states.
Marino was four months behind on his lease rental payments in February 2017, the warrant says.
“At this time, in lieu of eviction, there was another lease issued with an increased rent compensating for missed payments with a demand for eviction if these payments were not met,” Deputy State Fire Marshal Eric Johnson said in the warrant. “Less than a month later the structure suffered a catastrophic fire.”
The fire originated in the restaurant’s office area, according to the warrant, and the cause was determined to be the result of “human intervention and incendiary in nature.”
During the investigation into the fire at the Jones Creek restaurant, the warrant says, it was discovered that Marino’s previous restaurant, The Italian Bowl, burned down in October 2015.
“Witnesses came forward during the investigation and provided recorded statements that they had been propositioned by Marino to burn the Italian Bowl for insurance money and had also observed him attempt to set the Italian Bowl on fire on several, separate occasions,” Johnson states in the warrant.
Rothkamm said Ascension Parish prosecutors have charged Marino with arson with intent to defraud and three counts of attempted arson with intent to defraud.