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Business owner charged with arson, fraud in liquor store fire

WILLMAR, Minn. - The owner of a Lake Lillian liquor store destroyed by fire last year has been charged with arson.

Mary Sue Whitcomb, 51, of rural Atwater, was charged Monday in Kandiyohi County District Court with felony counts of second-degree arson and insurance fraud in the Sept. 23 blaze at K & M Liquor Store.

A criminal complaint says the business had been losing money and that Whitcomb had been unsuccessful in attempts to sell it. The business was refinanced only two weeks before the fire, but the business’s bank account continued to show a negative balance. Overdraft fees on the account totaled $3,940 at the time of the fire. The asking price for the business had been dropped from $65,000 to $49,900, according to the allegations.

Whitcomb submitted a claim to her insurance company Nov. 4 for losses totaling $75,304.56.

The fire marshal determined that a match or lighter was used to ignite paper towels and toilet tissues in the building’s first-floor bathroom.

The complaint alleges that Whitcomb was the last person in the building before the fire, leaving about 15 minutes before a resident reported the blaze.

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