DETROIT LAKES, Minn. — A rural Wadena man faces felony arson and theft charges for allegedly setting the Dec. 29 fire that heavily damaged the Wold’s RV Sales building in Detroit Lakes and then leaving with a $30,000 Wold’s fish house trailer.
Daniel Martin Kaufman, 42, has been charged with felony second-degree arson and felony theft in Becker County District Court.
According to court records, surveillance video from Foltz Buildings Inc., just east of Wold’s RV, showed Kaufman’s truck pull in and park behind some buildings on the Foltz property on the day of the fire.
Eventually, cellphone tracing and numerous store surveillance video showed that Kaufman left his residence, drove to Detroit Lakes on Highway 10, was in the vicinity of Wold’s just before the fire was reported, and then drove back home afterward.
When firefighters arrived at Wold’s about 9:45 p.m. Dec. 29, flames were shooting 10-12 feet out of windows on the east side and the building was fully engulfed in flames, according to court records.
A state fire marshal investigator concluded that the fire was started in an office/storage area by someone using an open flame to light available combustibles. The fire was classified as “incendiary” in nature, which means it was intentionally ignited.
Kaufman’s distinctive 2018 white Dodge Ram 3500 pickup truck, which has running lights on top, black trim and door handles, a toolbox, a black vertical decal and large mudflaps, was spotted heading east by Detroit Lakes police officers as they were westbound on Highway 10 on their way to the fire.
An off-duty Detroit Lakes police officer noticed that distinctive Ram 3500 for sale the day after the fire on Facebook Marketplace, posted for sale by Kaufman.
Then the investigating officer received an anonymous phone call from a man, believed to be Kaufman, who said he heard the fire had been triggered by a Wold’s customer angry about a fish house.
The call triggered the investigator to ask the Wold’s RV owner to check if anything was missing from the Wold’s lot. That’s when it was discovered that a brand new 2020 Big Bite trailer/fish house, valued at about $30,000, had been stolen.
A second anonymous call to the police investigator, from the same phone number as the first mysterious call, turned out to be from Kaufman, who eventually said he was calling to “clear his name.”
In the course of the conversations with police, he asked if police had video of the arson suspect’s face, and said others might have taken the Big Bite trailer and might have parked it at Walmart in Park Rapids (where it was found) and tried to blame the fire and theft on “Bill,” no last name, a guy he had been fishing with earlier.
On Feb. 12, Becker County District Judge Michael Fritz set bail or bond for Kaufman at $30,000 with standard conditions of release, or $100,000 without any conditions.
On Feb. 16, Kaufman posted a $30,000 bond and was released. His next court appearance is set for Monday, Feb. 22, before District Judge Galen Vaa.