The Camas Hotel manager who allegedly set fire to a guest room told police he did it to get insurance money so he could repay his parents $15,000 he lost while gambling.
Camas’ Won Dongandres Lee Kim — also known as Brendan Lee — appeared via teleconference Thursday in Clark County Superior Court on suspicion of first-degree arson, as well as a fugitive from justice case.
Lee Kim, 30, was arrested Wednesday after he intentionally started a fire in a closed, third-floor guest room in an attempt to commit insurance fraud, according to Camas police.
Judge Jennifer Snider set his bail at $50,000. He will be arraigned July 2.
Lee Kim also has a October 2019 warrant out of Clark County, Nev., from the Nevada Gaming Control Board for burglary, forgery and theft of $3,500 or more. Bail in the fugitive case was set at $5,000; he is ordered to stay away from hotels on the Strip in Las Vegas and the Camas Hotel.
Lee Kim is contesting his extradition to Nevada and requested a hearing. He’ll be back in court on that matter July 17.
Crews with the Camas-Washougal Fire Department were dispatched at 9:10 a.m. Wednesday to a possible fire at the hotel, 405 N.E. Fourth Ave. A hotel guest reported to 911 that a smoke alarm was sounding in Room 28, and smelled smoke, according to police and court records.
The guest put out the small blaze with a fire extinguisher. The damage was minimal, police said, and contained to the unoccupied room.
Camas Hotel is a historic building with no fire sprinkler system. There were 15 guests and one employee in the hotel at the time.
During their investigation, fire officials found evidence that the blaze was intentionally set and turned over the case to police.
Investigators determined that two towels and a bathmat had been set on fire, though “there were no obvious signs as to what started the fire,” an affidavit of probable cause reads. The room, at the time, was temporarily closed to guests due to a leak in the ceiling.
Two hotel employees, Marissa Witters and Karolina Vasilchuk, told police video surveillance from that morning showed Lee Kim entering Room 28 shortly before the fire started. Lee Kim reportedly told the employees to lie about the video to police if questioned, the affidavit says.
When interviewed by police, Lee Kim denied setting the blaze, but police noted inconsistencies in his story. He then reportedly admitted to purposely setting the fire in hopes of getting insurance money. Lee Kim said he is a gambling addict and had recently lost $15,000 of his parents’ money, court records state.
“He thought the insurance would be a quick way to replace his parents’ money before they found out,” the affidavit reads.
Police later viewed the surveillance footage and saw Lee Kim enter the room minutes before the fire alarm sounded. No one else had entered prior to the fire, according to court documents.
Lee Kim reportedly purchased the hotel in August 2019, according to the Camas Post-Record.