A Columbia teen pleaded guilty at Howard County Circuit Court on Wednesday to setting two fires near the Mall in Columbia in May.
Richard N. Mojica Jr., 18, of the 10300 block of Swift Stream Place, was arrested in May and charged with starting fires that resulted in more than $10,000 in damages and property loss, according to police, including a fire outside Sears at the Mall in Columbia.
Police arrested Mojica after they said they witnessed him running from a dumpster fire near Lord and Taylor at the Mall in Columbia on May 6, just three days after a fire was set underneath a trailer at the Sears loading dock.
Assistant state's attorney Ned Curry told the court Mojica ignited bales of cardboard underneath a trailer at the Sears loading dock to start that fire, and at Lord and Taylor, he ignited a combustible material in a chute that led to a trash compactor, according to state's attorney's spokesperson Wayne Kirwan.
Mojica pleaded guilty to second-degree arson for the Sears fire and malicious burning for the Lord and Taylor dumpster fire.
Prosecutors will seek a 10-year prison sentence, with all but 248 days suspended, and Mojica will be required to make restitution to victims as well as not possess fire-starting equipment, according to Kirwan.
A sentencing date is set for Jan. 10.
Fire Breaks Out Near Sears at Mall in Columbia