The owner of Giordano's Pizzeria has been charged with hiring someone in June to burn down his business.
Carlo Conti, 38, of 1413 Ann Circle in Clearwater was charged last week with conspiracy to commit arson and later released on bail. Police say Conti hired Gerard "J.J." Beaulieu, 17, of 604 Second St. SE in Largo to burn down the business so Conti could collect insurance money and move to a different location. Beaulieu was charged Tuesday with attempted arson. He was taken to the Juvenile Assessment Center.
Investigators initially thought someone set fire to the pizzeria to hide a robbery, but their suspicions were aroused after noticing that the burglars set detonators and disconnected gas appliances to allow gas to flow freely through the building.
After examining financial records of the business at 883 West Bay Drive in the Pinellas Shopping Center, investigators questioned Conti about inconsistencies in his statements.
Conti admitted to conspiring with two others to have the business destroyed to collect the insurance money so he could reopen in a new location, police said.
Several other businesses were damaged in the fire.
Conti declined to comment Tuesday on the advice of his attorney.
Beaulieu was arrested Tuesday. Investigators recovered a keg of beer, stereo equipment, a credit card reader and a neon sign from Beaulieu that Conti had reported stolen.
Largo police are searching for a third suspect, who they believe has left the state.