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Kansas City man pleads guilty to leading an arson-for-profit ring

Image shows a home that Wandale Fulton owned and several court documents implicating Fulton for various crimes. A photograph of a man in prison garb is attached.
Photo Illustration-Carlos Moreno and Sam Zeff
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KCUR 89.3
Wandale Fulton (pictured) was charged with crimes ranging from insurance fraud to money laundering. He pleaded guilty Thursday and will spend at least a decade in federal prison.

Wandale J. Fulton was charged with running a ring that also included ID theft and car title fraud. He will spend at least ten years in federal prison.

It took years for federal and state investigators to catch up to 40-year-old Wandale J. Fulton, but now he will spend at least ten years in federal prison after pleading guilty Thursday in federal court in Kansas City, Missouri.

Fulton and five others were named in a 21-count indictment in August 2020. In addition to ID theft and car title theft, the indictment alleged that Fulton “led an arson and insurance fraud conspiracy between 2013 and 2019,” using arson to commit mail and wire fraud.

Fulton pleaded guilty to four of the counts. When asked by U.S. District Court Judge David Gregory Kays if he wanted to plead guilty, Fulton said, "Given the circumstances, that's correct."

Fulton faces up to 30 years in prison, and under federal sentencing guidelines he must serve at least ten years on the charge of using fire to commit a federal crime. He also faces a potential fine of $1 million.

"You were part of the leadership of this conspiracy," Kays said.

"Yes, your honor," Fulton answered.

One of his co-conspirators, Ghadeer Garcia, 44, pleaded guilty in September to one count of conspiracy to use fire in a federal crime.

The government said Garcia not only was part of Fulton’s insurance fraud spree but was also romantically involved with him.

Garcia owned a house on 77th Terrace just east of Troost that burned in 2014. She was behind on her mortgage after a divorce.

Fire investigators quickly figured out that a rag soaked in gasoline was used to ignite the fire.

“Investigators also noticed racial graffiti had been spray painted on a living room wall,” court documents said.

Just before the fire, “she began a relationship with Fulton and discussed her financial troubles” with him, according to her plea deal with the government.

Garcia initially denied involvement with the arson, but her story fell apart after investigators turned up insurance documents at Fulton’s home after serving a search warrant. Seven months later, the government said, she confessed to federal agents and began cooperating.

Federal prosecutors said four of Fulton's confederates have also pleaded guilty and have been cooperating with investigators. None of them have been sentenced.

Fulton's first brush with the law was in 1998, when he was arrested for being involved in a homicide in Grandview. Fulton pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter but spent just 120 days in two Missouri prisons.

That conviction haunted him in Thursday's hearing. As Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agents were investigating the arsons, they served a search warrant at Fulton's Lee's Summit home. There they found three pistols, making Fulton a felon in possession of a firearm.

He also pleaded guilty to that charge on Thursday. Fulton's attorney argued that he should be allowed to remain free on bail before sentencing, but the government said the gun charge made him dangerous and he was a flight risk.

Fulton is now in federal custody.

You deserve to know what your taxpayer dollars are paying for and what public officials are doing on your behalf – I’ll work to report on irresponsible government spending in the Kansas City area and shed light on controversies that slow government down. And when you hear my voice in the morning, you know you’re getting everything you need to start your day. Email me at sam@kcur.org, find me on Twitter @samzeff or call me at 816-235-5004.
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