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Future Still Unclear for Tharpe St. Businesses in Arson

Posted at 5:09 PM, May 26, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-26 13:46:19-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) - Four months after a business complex on Tharpe Street was intentionally set on fire, authorities have made an arrest.

Victor Herrera, the owner of the complex, faces several charges including arson, insurance fraud and tampering with witnesses.

At "Whooze Next Barber & Beauty Shop," Traverse Lippett is busy wrapping up the week.

But for two of his friends, work has come with a challenge.

"I know both of them, and they're both hard-working guys," said Lippett. "They both love what they do."

The owners of "Super Clean Car Wash" and "Debo Sounds" lost their building when it went up in flames in January. WTXL talked to Dennis Howard, better known as "Debo", the next day.

Thursday, authorities arrested the owner of the complex after learning he set the fire to collect insurance money and tried to bribe a potential witness.

"Every person who has to pay an insurance premium in the state of Florida ultimately winds up being a victim on this, because insurance fraud ultimately affects the insurance rate that we all pay," said Joseph Steadman, the bureau chief for the Bureau of Fire and Arson Investigations.

"It was selfish, you know, for someone to stoop that low, knowing that these guys put blood, sweat and tears in their businesses, and they didn't have any insurance," said Lippett. "It would be shooting yourself in the foot."

We reached out to Debo, who says this is still a very sensitive matter as he and his business continues to recover. He said news of the arrest was almost like taking him back to January and reliving it all over again.

Herrera appeared in court Friday morning. The case will be prosecuted by the State Attorney's Office. If convicted, Herrera faces up to 30 years in prison.