The arson trial of Anthony Greco got underway on Monday, and is expected to last through Thursday.
Greco is on trial on charges of orchestrating first degree arson, insurance fraud and aiding and abetting related to an Aug. 19, 2010 structure fire at a Pahrump residence.
His former girlfriend and original co-defendant, Kathy Rinaldi, last month decided to turn state’s evidence and testify against Greco this week.
Both were originally charged after an investigation into a suspicious fire at their 5920 Pahrump Valley Blvd. home in what authorities say was a plan to collect money on the insurance policy. Prosecutors claim the defendants would have collected roughly $20,000 after the home was paid off by insurers according to court records.
On Monday, state Deputy Attorney General Michael Kovac told jurors that while Rinaldi was earning a six-figure annual income at the time, she was also supporting several of her adult children who were facing financial problems.
During that time, Kovac said Greco was earning a meager wage as a part-time security guard, earning between $6,000 and $20,000 per year. Kovac said Greco was able to convince Rinaldi to allow him to oversee all of her finances, a move Kovac said, Rinaldi now regrets.
“Rinaldi trusted the defendant so much that she actually gave him “power of attorney,” handing over complete control of her finances and she will tell you that it completely backfired because the defendant had stopped paying all of the bills,” he said. “Her situation became so bad that she had to file for bankruptcy protection.”
Kovac said Rinaldi and Greco, at the time, knew that they could not afford to keep the home.
According to the criminal complaint, the insurance claim filed by the couple after the fire on the fully-insured home contained misleading information.
The report also stated that Greco and Rinaldi told investigators about several expensive renovations they had planned on the home, even though it appeared both had no means to pay the mortgage, let alone any major renovations.
“You will see that the home was fully insured by the Allstate Insurance Company,” he said. “Between 2007, when the home was purchased and 2010 when the home was burned. The arson and fire occurred around the time of the housing crash,” he said.
Defense Attorney Michael Printy warned members of the jury that Kovac’s opening remarks were mere remarks and should not be considered as evidence relating to the case.
“A lot of what Mr. Kovac said is true and a lot of it we dispute and the evidence will bring that out,” he said. “We will hear from the witnesses and the circumstances surrounding a lot of that. What this case is about though, is about a rush to judgement. The prosecution was right about there being an arson, but Anthony Greco did not commit that arson.”
The original investigation began when sheriff’s deputies responded to Rinaldi’s home in reference to a burglary.
Greco met deputies at the home and told the police that someone broke into the house and also set the interior on fire. Greco said he was working on the house the day prior and nothing was wrong.
According to police reports, upon entering the home, deputies noticed that parts of the hallway and ceiling were burned, as well as damage to several doors at the residence, including the garage door.
Greco informed deputies that nothing appeared to be missing from inside the house.
According to investigators, a can of mineral spirits was discovered in the hallway of the home and a pry bar was located in the bathroom.
Both items had no fingerprints after a forensic analysis was performed.
At the time, Nye County Sheriff’s Deputy Heather Trumble notified Pahrump Valley Fire and Rescue Service Chief Scott Lewis, who responded and conducted an initial fire investigation.
In his report, Lewis’ report stated that he “observed several areas, center hall, center hall bathroom, with attached laundry area, and evidence of smoke and heat throughout, but no active fire.”
Following his initial investigation, Nevada State Fire Marshal Michael Kolpak concluded that the fire was intentional, stating a chemical accelerant was used to start the fire but unforeseen circumstances put out the flames.
“The fire was investigated and determined that mineral spirits were poured in the bathroom of the house then ignited,” Kolpak said. “A nearby water line burst and subsequently extinguished the fire prematurely.”
Other clues also led Kolpak to his determination that the fire was intentionally set.
His report stated that a hole had been cut out in the ceiling directly above the area where the fire was ignited.
Ceiling and box fans were on at the time of the fire.
“Based on the combination of the factors, it appears the house was intentionally prepared by Greco to assist ventilation in the event of a fire,” the report stated.
At the time, the home was in foreclosure status and Greco stated he was about to knock down walls to expand the bathroom.
Just one week prior to the fire, Rinaldi and Greco told authorities that they moved out all of Rinaldi’s collectables and expensive items that were stored at the residence.
The report said there were no appliances or furniture inside the home and the carpeting had also been removed as well as some of the doors were off their hinges.
Greco told investigators he had been remodeling the home since 2007.
Kolpak, in his report, said very little work had actually been performed on the home.
Last month, Rinaldi decided to plead guilty to conspiracy to commit a breach of peace, a gross misdemeanor.
As part of the terms of the plea agreement, Rinaldi received a 364-day suspended jail sentence.
She must also pay the attorney general’s office $500 for prosecutorial costs as well as pay restitution to the Allstate Insurance Company in the amount of $14,025.
She also agreed to fully cooperate with prosecutors this week in the prosecution of Greco.