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Department of Justice

U.S. Attorney's Office
Southern District of California
Tara K. McGrath, United States Attorney
For Immediate Release
Monday, April 8, 2024

Woman Convicted by Federal Jury of Burning Down Local San Diego Business

SAN DIEGO – A federal jury has convicted Carey Alice Hernandez, bookkeeper for Off Road Warehouse headquartered in Kearny Mesa, of intentionally setting fire to the business to cover up the disappearance of more than $700,000 while she was in charge of company finances.

After a four-day trial, jurors found Hernandez guilty of malicious destruction of a building by means of fire, witness tampering and making false statements.

In late 2018, the owner of Off Road Warehouse, also known as ORW, which sold and installed automotive parts and gear for off-roading, decided to sell the business located at 7915 Balboa Avenue. The purchaser began an audit of ORW. The audit revealed that during Hernandez’s tenure as bookkeeper and controller in charge of the company books and records, $744,621 went missing between January 2015 and March 2019.

The jury found that in the early morning hours of March 28, 2019, Hernandez started the fire at Off Road Warehouse, causing the building to burn to the ground.

Firefighter's working on putting out the flames during the Off Road Warehouse fire.


According to evidence presented at trial, shortly before the fire, local surveillance video showed an SUV with dark wheel rims driving near the defendant’s house in Point Loma. Further video surveillance showed the defendant driving the same vehicle to the scene of the arson before she started the inferno. Surveillance also showed her driving back home after the fire, in the same dark-rimmed SUV.

The day after the fire, Hernandez sent misleading texts to ORW employees in an attempt to convince them her wheel rims were light, not dark. Specifically, after learning that law enforcement was searching for a dark- rimmed SUV, she tried to convince employees who had changed her vehicle’s distinctive rims before the fire that her vehicle had light rims during the time of the fire and thus, the SUV spotted on surveillance cameras could not be hers.

During a subsequent interview with special agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), Hernandez lied about the distinctive rims on her vehicle. However, the lies to law enforcement and attempts to tamper with witnesses were contradicted by the video surveillance from the day after the fire, showing the defendant driving around San Diego in her dark-rimmed, not light-rimmed, SUV. These acts resulted in her convictions for witness tampering and false statements.

Flames tear through the Off Road Warehouse.

ATF’s National Response Team (NRT) investigated this case in conjunction with San Diego’s Metro Arson Strike Team (MAST). The NRT is ATF’s mobile, rapid response team which investigates the cause and origin of large fires, explosions and bombings at the request of local public safety agencies.

“While it is extremely fortunate that no one was physically hurt in this blaze, it was a devastating loss for the company,” said U.S. Attorney Tara McGrath. “This defendant used arson, tampering with witnesses, and deceit to put the community in danger, but the jury held her accountable.”

“ATF’s National Response Team responded to this multimillion-dollar loss within 24 hours determining the fire was deliberately set,” said ATF Los Angeles Field Division Special Agent in Charge Chris Bombardiere. “Arson crimes are not victimless fires. This criminal act devastated a business and the livelihood of several individuals and families. ATF stands willing and ready to partner with federal, state, and local public safety officials to keep our communities free from dangerous arsonists.” 

Hernandez is scheduled to be sentenced July 12, 2024, at 9:30 a.m. before U.S. District Judge Jinsook Ohta.

This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Matthew Brehm and Carl Brooker.

DEFENDANT                                               Case Number 22cr145-JO                                          

Carey Alice Hernandez                                  Age: 46                                   Rathdrum, Idaho


Malicious Destruction of Building by Means of Fire – Title 18, U.S.C., Section 844(i)

Maximum penalty: No less than five years in prison and no more than 20 years and $250,000 fine

Witness Tampering – Title 18, U.S.C., Section 1512(b)(3)

Maximum penalty: Twenty years in prison and $250,000 fine

False Statements – Title 18, U.S.C., Section 1001(a)(2)

Maximum penalty: Five years in prison and $250,000 fine


Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives


Media Relations Director Kelly Thornton (619) 546-9726 or

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