Arsonist suspected in waves of fires across Lincoln Park and Lakeview gets 4 years

A Palatine man who allegedly set a series of arson fires across Lakeview and Lincoln Park to calm himself down after arguing with his girlfriend has pleaded guilty to one incident in exchange for a four-year prison sentence.

Police arrested Juan Carlos Arias, age 44, shortly after a wave of fires broke out in late July 2020. He was also charged with setting at least one fire during another arson spree in the same area a month earlier.

Prosecutors said surveillance video captured images of Arias riding a bike through an alley on the 2400 block of North Lincoln on June 29, assembling materials on top of a trash can, and then setting the pile on fire. The blaze spread to a nearby garage.

Juan Carlos Arias is accused of setting this fire on the 2600 block of North Orchard in July 2020. | CPD; Provided

Another video allegedly showed him riding his bike through an alley on the 2600 block of North Orchard around 5 a.m. July 30, 2020. Prosecutors said he was seen walking up to a trash can that burst into flames moments after he left the area. The fire burned two garages and damaged three cars.

A few minutes later, a police sergeant stopped Arias for riding his bike on a sidewalk near Wiggly Field Dog Park, 2645 North Sheffield. The sergeant noticed that Arias resembled the June arsonist and took him into custody.

Arias told detectives that “he lights fires to calm himself down” and “he got into a fight with his girlfriend,” an assistant states attorney said during his bond hearing.

Police believe Arias is responsible for setting several other fires in the area on both nights, but charges were only filed in connection with two cases. Prosecutors eventually dropped the Lincoln Avenue arson charges. Arias has now pleaded guilty to setting the fire on Orchard.

Cook County Judge Joseph Claps sentenced Arias and gave him credit for 400 days that he spent in jail after being arrested. Arias will also receive a 50% sentence reduction for good behavior. He is expected to be released from prison in about 11 months.

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CWBChicago was created in 2013 by five residents of Wrigleyville and Boystown who had grown disheartened with inaccurate information that was being provided at local Community Policing (CAPS) meetings. Our coverage area has expanded since then to cover Lincoln Park, River North, The Loop, Uptown, and other North Side Areas. But our mission remains unchanged: To provide original public safety reporting with better context and greater detail than mainstream media outlets. Our editorial email address is