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Arrest made in arson blaze that destroyed Hitching Post

Sep 30, 2012 - By Ben Neary, The Associated Press

CHEYENNE -- Federal prosecutors announced Friday that a New Mexico man faces charges in a 2010 arson fire that destroyed a landmark Cheyenne hotel.

The U.S. Attorney's Office in Cheyenne announced that a Wyoming grand jury has indicted the 44-year-old New Mexico man. The announcement states the man is accused of maliciously destroying the Hitching Post Inn by fire and using fire to further mail fraud.

For decades, the hotel served as the favored bunkhouse and watering hole for Wyoming state lawmakers.

The announcement, released just before 5 p.m., states, "as the investigation into the fire is ongoing, no further comment regarding this case may be made at this time."

Court records in New Mexico show that a man with the same name as identified in the press release was ordered on Sept. 7 to answer charges in Wyoming.

The New Mexico records show U.S. District Judge Nancy Freudenthal of Cheyenne on Thursday filed an order sealing the complaint against the man as well as supporting documents in the case.

According to the U.S. Attorney's Office statement, the man appeared in court in Chey-enne on Friday and was ordered held without bond.

Attempts to reach prosecutors and an Albuquerque lawyer who represented the defendant were unsuccessfu.

A civil legal battle over the arson fire also has been playing out in federal court in Cheyenne.

Judge Freudenthal also presides over an ongoing legal dispute in which an insurance company, National Surety Corp., accuses the owners of the hotel, CJM Hospitality LLC, of intentionally burning the hotel to collect $13.6 million in insurance money.

CJM filed a lawsuit against the insurance company in New Jersey last December because the company refused to cover the loss of the hotel. National Surety countered by filing a lawsuit in Wyoming.

Freudenthal in July vacated a pretrial conference that had been set for the civil trial for Aug. 20.

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