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Plea agreement reached in Blue Smoke BBQ case

The owners of Blue Smoke BBQ demolished the building in April 2014 after a fire damaged the building the previous August. (Echo Press file photo)

A co-owner of Blue Smoke BBQ in Alexandria, which was lost in a fire four years ago, has pleaded guilty to one of three felony charges he faced in connection with the fire.

David Galbraith, 27, of Glenwood admitted to committing felony theft by swindle. He entered his amended plea in Douglas County District Court on Sept. 7, the same day that pre-trial proceedings were scheduled to begin.

As part of an agreement, two other charges — conspiring to commit arson and insurance fraud — will be dismissed. He is scheduled to be sentenced on Nov. 14.

The criminal complaint alleged that in August 2013, Galbraith, the co-owner of Blue Smoke BBQ, paid Derrick Bradley, then-manager of the restaurant, to burn down the building so Galbraith could collect insurance proceeds at a time when the business was financially failing.

The complaint said that as a result of the fire, Galbraith collected more than $266,000 in insurance proceeds.

Bradley wasn't charged in the case because he voluntarily came forward with information and cooperated with the investigation, according to County Attorney Chad Larson.

"This fire would have been deemed accidental had the guy who actually lit it not come forward," Larson noted in an email to the Echo Press. "Galbraith's motive was financial and I believe that this outcome fairly addresses his crime."

After Bradley came forward, investigators interviewed former employees of the restaurant and found that the business owed employees, vendors and the state money.

On Nov. 11, 2015, agents from the West Central Drug and Violent Crimes Task Force met with Bradley, gave him an audio recording device and told him to meet with Galbraith to discuss the fire.

Bradley was instructed to tell Galbraith he was concerned about people knowing about the arson and to ask Galbraith who else knew about it. Agents monitored the conversation and Galbraith identified the employees who knew about the payment and the arson.

Records reveal that between Aug. 21, 2013, and April 29, 2014, Secura Insurance paid Blue Smoke BBQ/Galbraith Investments LLC a total of $266,134 for the loss of the restaurant at 403 Third Ave. E.

After his arrest, Galbraith was released from jail on his own recognizance with the conditions that he remain law abiding, not leave the state without written court approval, make future court appearances and maintain contact with his attorney.

Al Edenloff
Al Edenloff is the news and opinion page editor for the Echo Press. He was born in Alexandria and lived most of his childhood in Parkers Prairie. He graduated with honors from Moorhead State University with a degree in mass communications, print journalism. He interned at the Echo Press in the summer of 1983 and was hired a year later as a sports reporter. He also worked as a news reporter/photographer. Al is a four-time winner of the Minnesota Newspaper Association's Herman Roe Award, which honors excellence in editorial writing.  
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