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Max sentence for Hitching Post arsonist

Sep 10, 2013 - By Ben Neary, The Associated Press

For years the inn had been the toast of Cheyenne as the home for most state lawmakers during their winter legislative sessions.

CHEYENNE -- A New Mexico man will serve six years in prison for masterminding the arson attack that burned down a landmark hotel in Cheyenne, a federal judge ordered Monday.

Judge Nancy Freudenthal sentenced Ajay Jariwala, 52, of Albuquerque, to the maximum sentence possible. Jariwala had pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit arson in what prosecutors say was a plan to defraud an insurance company of more than $13 million.

Before falling on hard times in the years before the arson, the Hitching Post Inn had for years been the toast of Cheyenne. With a steakhouse and bar, it was home for mosty state lawmakers during their winter legislative sessions.

"It was the gateway facility to Cheyenne," Freudenthal said. "Now, sadly, we have a field of weeds and a blighted environment. When it was in its heyday, we had a magnificent hotel."

The Hitching Post went through different owners after longtime owner Paul Smith died of cancer in 2006.

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