Investigators believe a Los Altos man set his car on fire at a Mountain View auto repair shop last month with the intent of fooling insurers.
On Jan. 24, Mountain View Police Department officers arrested 28-year-old Paul Schonhardt, along with a suspected accomplice, in connection with the fire, which destroyed three cars at Pedro's Auto Clinic, located at 1080 Terra Bella Ave.
The fire, which was first reported at 3:28 a.m. on Jan. 13, was immediately deemed suspicious according Jaime Garrett, public information officer for the Mountain View Fire Department. Parked cars "don't typically self-combust," Garrett told the Voice later that day.
Arson investigators with the fire department and police detectives worked together on the case, finding a gas can under Schonhardt's car and determining that his vehicle was the origin of the blaze, according to Sgt. Saul Jaeger, public information officer with the police department.
That led investigators to focus on Schonhardt, Jaeger said. Schonhardt had been paid money by his insurance company to pay the shop for repairs to his car, Jaeger said, but "instead of paying the shop, he commited insurance fraud by lighting the car on fire."
Police also arrested Angelina Rutlege of San Jose, Jaeger said. She did not directly particpate in the arson, but she is believed to have driven Schonhardt to and from the autoshop on the morning of the fire.
Both were booked into San Jose's Main Jail for a variety of charges, including arson and posession of controlled substances.