- Associated Press - Thursday, July 16, 2015

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) - A New Jersey man intends to plead guilty to an unspecified federal charge stemming from a 2010 arson fire in Wyoming that destroyed the landmark Hitching Post Inn in Cheyenne, according to court records.

Falgun Dharia of Flanders, New Jersey, pleaded not guilty in January to six charges, including conspiracy to commit arson and conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud.

Federal prosecutors and Dharia filed notice in federal court Wednesday saying his case will be transferred to New York, where he faces other charges. The notice says Dharia will plead guilty to an unspecified Wyoming charge in New York.

John R. Powell, spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office in Cheyenne, declined comment Thursday.

Michael David Lindsey, a lawyer in Englewood, Colorado, represents Dharia in the Wyoming case. He declined comment on what particular Wyoming count Dharia will plead guilty to.

Lindsey said no date has been set yet for Dharia to enter a plea in New York. He said Dharia remains free after posting $500,000 bond on the Wyoming charges.

Two other men are serving prison time in the arson.

Ajay Jariwala of Albuquerque, New Mexico, is serving a six-year prison sentence for commissioning the arson, and Robert Rodriguez, also of Albuquerque, was sentenced to a five-year prison term for carrying it out.

Dharia was a principal in CJM Hospitality LLC, which had bought the Hitching Post at a bankruptcy proceeding for just over $1 million. The indictment against him alleged he arranged for Jariwala to oversee the renovation of the hotel and the two men decided to hire Rodriguez to burn it down to collect insurance.

The fire occurred on Sept. 15, 2010.

Before falling on hard times in the years before the arson, the Hitching Post Inn had long been an important gathering spot in Cheyenne. It featured a steakhouse and bar with live entertainment and had served as a temporary home for many state lawmakers during their winter legislative sessions.

In sentencing Jariwala in 2013, U.S. District Judge Nancy Freudenthal said the Hitching Post had been the gateway to Cheyenne.

“Now, sadly, we have a field of weeds and a blighted environment,” she said. “When it was in its heyday, we had a magnificent hotel.”

Criminal charges pending against Dharia in New York include bank fraud, making a false statement on a tax return and obstruction of justice.

Robert S. Wolf, a New York lawyer who represents Dharia in that proceeding, declined comment Thursday.

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