Feds: Independence gold trader paid arsonist to burn rival business

William Reneau, 41
William Reneau, 41 Buchanan County Sheriff's Office

The owner of an Independence gold-buying business is charged in federal court with conspiring to burn down a rival’s storefront along with a house belonging to another man.

The business owner was identified as William “Bill” Joseph Reneau in a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Western District of Missouri. He owns Gold Rush Exchange, which has two locations in Independence.

Reneau, 41, was charged Wednesday with one count of conspiracy to commit arson after federal prosecutors said he paid others to damage and burn Bobby Jackson’s Trading Company, a business operated by Reneau’s former employee, as well as a house owned by his wife’s ex-husband.

Court records said it appeared Reneau’s actions were driven by “personal grievances.”

It started last year when Reneau allegedly paid someone $800 to damage Bobby Jackson’s Trading in Independence, according to court records.

On July 17, 2017, a stolen Jeep was driven into the building in the 300 block of East 23rd Street, damaging the exterior. Police later found the Jeep unoccupied, but still running, with parts of the building attached to the vehicle.

Then, on Aug. 4, 2017, police said it appeared someone poured gasoline around the business and started a fire near the front door and windows, causing $5,000 in damage.

More recently, on Aug. 13, authorities responded to another fire — this time at an unoccupied house in the 1200 block of South Ranson Street. The fire started on the back deck of the home. Police found a partially burned rug that smelled of gasoline and a melted plastic gasoline container.

They also found a set of car keys on the ground at the foot of the stairs leading to the deck. Police determined the keys belonged to a Pontiac G6 which was abandoned a street over from the home.

Police interviewed the car’s owner, who allegedly told them he started the fire at the house and lost his car keys in the process.

The man told authorities the store manager of Gold Rush Exchange had hired him on Reneau’s behalf to burn down the home, court records said.

Prosecutors allege Reneau had paid the man $500 to set the fire.

Court records said the man was also asked to burn Bobby Jackson’s Trading, but he backed out.

Reneau was arrested on unrelated charges in Buchanan County on Aug. 23.

A court date has not yet been scheduled.