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Pet shop owner now faces insurance fraud charges

Accused pet store arsonist Gloria Lee now faces fraud charges after authorities say she made a claim with her insurance company following the January blaze at the Prince and Princess Pet Boutique.

Lee, 35, was indicted by a grand jury on three more charges, including arson with intent to defraud an insurer, insurance fraud and attempted theft, Clark County prosecutors said Friday.

District Judge Linda Bell raised Lee’s bail to a total of $340,000 as a result of the new charges.

Lee and fledgling boxer Kirk Bills, 27, were already facing 31 charges, including 27 counts of attempted animal cruelty.

A trial is set for July 14 by Judge David Barker.

Until Friday, there had only been speculation that the fire was set in an insurance fraud scheme.

According to the indictment, Lee made a claim for more than $3,500 with the Hartford Insurance Company after the Jan. 27 fire.

Federal bankruptcy records show she and her estranged husband and pet store co-owner Donald Thompson have recently emerged from financial problems.

Defense lawyers were hoping to squash the original 31 charges against Lee and Bills at a hearing set for May. It’s unclear if that hearing will be delayed due to the new indictment.

Surveillance video from the pet shop shows a woman letting a man with dreadlocks and wearing a hood into the shop. The man then tried to start a fire using kerosene and gasoline splashed onto the animal cages. The woman is seen removing documents from the business and helping the hooded man by collecting the empty fuel cans before the fire was set.

Prosecutors say the man and woman in the video are Bills and Lee.

The blaze was quickly extinguished by a sprinkler system in the store, and the dogs survived unharmed.

Lee later told investigators that she was forced at gunpoint to let the man into the store, and she said her estranged husband, Donald Thompson, was behind the arson, according to grand jury testimony. But authorities didn’t believe her because they say she appeared to be working with the man in the video.

Bills’ defense lawyer has said that the video is dark and it’s unclear who the person is in the video.

But Bills, who hails from Illinois, called Lee while she was in jail and asked if a face could be seen on the video, according to court papers.

On the recording of the conversation, Bills said, “I’m not going to be able to come sign for you ’cause girl they are looking for me, too. Why are they looking for me girl, they chased me, they chased me but I got away. Did they see whose face it is?”

On Jan. 29, Bills fled from federal agents who were watching his Henderson home. He was arrested days later in Crown Point, Ind.

The county took charge of the 27 dogs that included 25 puppies after the January arson at the Prince and Princess Pet Boutique. The Animal Foundation adopted out the young dogs via the “Arson Puppy Adoption Drawing,” that sold raffle $250 raffle tickets.

The two adult dogs are in foster care through the animal rescue A Home 4 Spot.

Bills and Lee have pleaded not guilty. They both remain in custody at the Clark County Detention Center. Bills is being held on $310,000 bail.

Contact reporter Francis McCabe at fmccabe@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-1039. Find him on Twitter: @fjmccabe.

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