Man pleads guilty to setting fire to Pizzeria Mozza during protests


A man accused of setting fire to the Hancock Park building, which houses Pizzeria Mozza, during the May 2020 protests over the murder of George Floyd, pleaded guilty to federal arson charges on Monday.

Mario Ernesto Alvarado of South Los Angeles was charged with arson in August 2020, according to federal prosecutors, for setting fire to the Melrose Avenue commercial building. He entered the building on May 30, 2020, the second night of the Los Angeles civil unrest, sprayed a flammable liquid on the floor and set it on fire, prosecutors said.

Alvarado, 44, changed his initial no-guilt plea as part of a settlement with the federal government.

He is scheduled to be sentenced by US District Judge R. Gary Klausner in June.

The fire caused an estimated $300,000 in structural damage and an additional $50,000 in restaurant merchandise and property. Pizzeria Mozza and an affiliated shop were closed at the time due to citywide curfews due to the civil unrest.

Leads from the public led authorities to Alvarado, and police who searched his home found the same T-shirt and hat he was wearing the night of the arson, according to court records. Authorities also found a can of lighter fluid in the back of Alvarado’s Ford Focus, which he was driving to and from the crime scene.

The fire was set on the first full day that dine-in service resumed in Los Angeles after the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. That reopening was followed by another night of unrest, with some protesters marred by vandalism and theft, and protesters being hit with projectiles and tear gas by police.

Michael Krikorian – a former Times reporter and partner of Nancy Silverton, chef and owner of the four Mozzaplex restaurants – said the fire at the Mozza2Go store charred a table and some books. Television footage that night showed smoke billowing from the building and a line of fire engines on Melrose Avenue. Man pleads guilty to setting fire to Pizzeria Mozza during protests

Russell Falcon

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