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AFR arrests alleged firebug in $15,000 blaze

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

Anthony Tolbert

Fire investigators arrested a “serial arsonist” after a recent fire outside a mechanic shop that damaged vehicles, a building and a costly air compressor.

Anthony Tolbert, 49, is charged with arson over $2,500 in the Nov. 13 blaze that sparked outside an auto shop in Northwest Albuquerque.

Tom Ruiz, an Albuquerque Fire Rescue spokesman, said Tolbert has been linked to dozens of fires in the Downtown area over the past 13 years, including several within the past few weeks.

“This arrest takes Tolbert off of the streets, and the community is a safer place due to the hard work of those involved,” AFR Capt. Ramon Martinez, of the Fire Investigations Division, said in a release.

Court records show Tolbert has at least 10 fire-related arrests – most of them misdemeanors or petty misdemeanors – on his record.

He has more than a dozen other arrests on suspicion of criminal trespass, criminal damage to property, indecent exposure and nonresidential burglary, among others.

Ruiz said this most recent charge, a fourth-degree felony, could put Tolbert away for up to three years and/or fine him $5,000.

According to a criminal complaint filed in Metropolitan Court:

On Nov. 13, firefighters responded around 12:45 a.m. to a vehicle blaze underneath a carport at German Precision, an auto repair shop near Second and Mountain NW.

Crews were able to suppress the fire, and damages were estimated at $15,000. The business owner told firefighters he believed Tolbert lit the fire and later found debris underneath the torched vehicle.

“(AFR) has been dealing with Mr. Tolbert for the past several years – and is very familiar with him,” a fire investigator wrote, calling Tolbert a “serial arsonist.”

Video surveillance showed a man fitting Tolbert’s description jump a wall and approach the carport before apparently placing something under the vehicle. Soon after, smoke begins to rise in the area and Tolbert is seen, no longer wearing pants or shoes, jumping the wall.

“Based on our experience … it is common for Mr. Tolbert to linger around in the immediate fire area after the fire has been set,” an investigator wrote.

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