The Becker County Attorney’s Office recently filed three felony charges against Gary John Bogatz as a result of his involvement in a 2018 fire at a Christian outreach center in Detroit Lakes. The criminal complaint states that on September 22, 2018, Detroit Lakes Police and Fire Departments were dispatched to a fire at The Refuge Christian Outreach Center in Detroit Lakes. Based on an initial investigation conducted by the Minnesota State Fire Marshal Division (SFMD), the cause of the fire was deemed to be intentional.
The Detroit Lakes Police, the SFMD and the Minnesota Commerce Fraud Bureau conducted a joint investigation in an effort to determine who was responsible for the fire.
The criminal complaint charges Bogatz, 40, of Elk River, with first-degree arson, insurance fraud and second-degree burglary. According to the complaint, investigators located a fingerprint on a door handle that was used by the individual who gained access to the interior of The Refuge on the night of the fire. Fingerprint analysis matched the print to Bogatz. In April 2020, a Detroit Lakes Police investigator and Commerce Fraud Bureau special agent conducted an interview with Bogatz. According to the criminal complaint, Bogatz eventually admitted to involvement in the arson.
According to the criminal complaint, Bogatz told investigators that on September 18, 2018, he was asked by a board member of The Refuge and another individual with connections to The Refuge to start the fire. Bogatz said the individuals said The Refuge would have to be shut down unless “something happened.” Bogatz said the individuals told him they have “a lot of fire insurance” on the building, and he was instructed to make it look like a burglary and burn the place down. Bogatz said he and another man later kicked in the back door of The Refuge and gasoline was used to start the fire.
A summons has been issued related to these felony charges, and Bogatz will be required make an initial court appearance in Becker County at a later date.
Anyone with information about this investigation is asked to contact the Detroit Lakes Police Department at 218-847-4222, the Minnesota Arson Hotline at 800-723-2020 or the Minnesota Commerce Fraud Bureau at 888-372-8366.
A criminal complaint is merely an accusation and a defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty. The Commerce Fraud Bureau is a law enforcement agency within the Minnesota Department of Commerce charged with conducting criminal investigations involving insurance fraud and related crimes.
Detroit Lakes Police Department, 218-846-3203.
Becker County Attorney’s Office, 218-847-6590.
Issued by Brian Strub, Minnesota Department of Commerce.