The former owner of a Lodi pizzeria pleaded guilty Thursday to a federal arson charge for a December fire that destroyed his restaurant.

Thomas L. Matje, 46, of DeForest, told U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb that he used lighter fluid to start a fire to burn down Fat Boys Pizza, 133 S. Main St., on Dec. 27. He said that the fire then spread from an electrical outlet in the kitchen.

Matje told Crabb that the business was not successful and he wanted to "get rid of it." He ran the business in Lodi for about three years.

The building suffered $200,000 damage and included two apartments upstairs. One person had to be treated for smoke inhalation.

Matje now faces a minimum mandatory sentence of five years in prison or as much as 20 years behind bars. He could also receive a $250,000 fine and be ordered to pay restitution for losses caused by the fire.

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