SAN DIEGO — Local businessman Avonte Hartsfield, who is accused of setting his own truck on fire and taking thousands from donors, is headed to trial.  

A preliminary hearing was held Wednesday, where a judge determined there is enough evidence to proceed to trial.  

The judge heard from six witnesses from the San Diego Police Department, District Attorney’s Office investigators and State Farm Insurance investigators.  

The judge made note that Wednesday’s hearing was the sixth time they have tried to have a preliminary exam. 

“I have made a finding that the crimes were committed and that you committed them, so I’m binding you over on all the counts that are charged,” said Honorable Runston Maino with the San Diego County Superior Court.  

Hartsfield is headed to trial in an arson and insurance fraud case. However, the preliminary hearing started late after Hartsfield showed up an hour late and claimed he had a flat tire and had to ride his motorcycle in. 

At the end of the hearing, Maino told Hartsfield, “I want you to listen, look at me and listen. You are ordered to call the court if you are going to be late. If you don’t call the court and you are late, the judge can recall or get rid of your or release and put you into custody.” 

“This morning’s activity was completely inappropriate. Frankly I don’t believe you about the reason you were late,” Maino added.  

Hartsfield is accused of setting his own food truck on fire “Rollin Roots” in October 2021 outside his Kearny Mesa office. In addition, Hartsfield is accused of taking money from insurance companies, even donors, under false claims.  

At this time, Hartsfield claimed someone targeted his business and the fire was a hate crime. 

Hartsfield said two days before the fire someone left a noose hanging over his office door and cut power cords to his truck.  

A year later in November 2022, prosecutors charged Hartsfield with arson and insurance fraud in connection with the blaze.  

In court, the prosecutor played surveillance video near the truck the night of the fire.  

San Diego Police Metro Arson Strike Team detective John Clayton testified Hartsfield appears to be in the video right before and after the fire.  

The court also heard multiple phone calls between Hartsfield and Clayton after the fire.  

In one phone call, Hartsfield claims he saw someone with a gun near his truck the night of the fire and fled. In another call, Hartsfield said a rice cooker left on inside the truck might’ve started the fire.  

The arson detective said he took that information to his fire investigators, who then determined there was “no way” the fire started the way Hartsfield described.  

“Well I know here for a fact that we all here at the office know that you started the fire, it’s just a matter of do you want to own it, be honest and now ask for forgiveness and move on. Or keep up with the lie, Avonte, that’s where we are at,” Clayton said in the phone call.  

Hartsfield also faces a grand theft charge. A GoFundMe started by Hartsfield the day after the fire in 2021 raised more than $100,000 from more than 2,000 donors.  

In court, it was also revealed that Hartsfield also received a $20,000 donation from Sycuan tribal officials. 

But in March 2022, Hartsfield said on the GoFundMe campaign the fire was “actually from an electrical mishap,” and offered to refund the money. 

Clayton testified that he spoke with one of Hartsfield’s former employee about the state of the business before the fire. 

“She stated she had lived with and worked for the defendant from approximately January 2021 through sometime that summer. She said over the course of the time the defendant hadn’t paid her or the co-workers their tip money. She said the truck wasn’t doing well physically and the  business wasn’t doing well financially. And she said by the time she quit, the defendant had essentially lost all his employees and was essentially running the food truck by himself,” Clayton said. 

Hartsfield, who represented himself, told FOX 5’s Alani Letang after the hearing that the outcome is what he expected and will continue to represent himself throughout his criminal proceedings.  

He is due back in court Sept. 14 for an arraignment. If convicted, Hartsfield faces up to seven years and four months.