Illinois man admits to arson-for-hire scheme in St. Louis

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ST. LOUIS – An Illinois man pleaded guilty to 14 felonies in connection with an arson-for-hire scheme.

Rufis Jefferson, 47, of Venice, admitted to his involvement in the scheme during a federal court hearing Thursday.

Investigators say Jefferson and others conspired to set residential buildings on fire and collect insurance benefits.

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According to court documents, a family member paid Jefferson to burn her St. Louis apartment on New Year’s Eve in 2022 so that she could collect insurance money.

Jefferson also conspired with the same family member to burn two additional buildings in Granite City and Venice. However, an ATF confidential informant recorded many of the planning conversations, and those buildings were not burned.

Investigators say the relative’s insurer paid out an estimated $30,000 for the St. Louis apartment fire.

“Under federal law, intentionally igniting residential buildings to file insurance claims for the
damages and collect benefits is committing fraud, and law enforcement is working to prosecute
offenders of these hazardous crimes,” said U.S. Attorney Rachelle Aud Crowe.

“This guilty plea will send a message to anyone who considers conducting these types of violent acts that they will not be tolerated. ATF will continue to work alongside our law enforcement partners to ensure that your community remains a safe place,” said Bernard Hansen, special agent in charge of the ATF Kansas City Field Division.

Jefferson pleaded guilty to 10 counts of wire fraud, two counts of mail fraud, one count of conspiracy to commit arson and one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud.

Prosecutors have also charged Evette Osuegbu, 61, of Granite City, with similar offenses.


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