A 19-year-old man accused of breaking into a Denny’s restaurant in Mecca, where he allegedly stole items and vandalized the eatery before setting it ablaze, pleaded not guilty Thursday to several felony charges.
Juan Julian Serrano, who authorities said is a transient who frequents the Mecca area, was arrested Sunday morning in Thermal in connection with the alleged June 30 crimes at the Denny’s at 90470 66th Ave.
Superior Court Judge Alfonso Fernandez scheduled a felony settlement conference for July 27 and set bail at $60,000 for the defendant, who remains in custody at the Smith Correctional Facility in Banning.
Serrano is charged with arson, burglary and vandalism in excess of $5,000. He also faces another felony arson count in connection with a dumpster fire he allegedly started on June 29 at the same Denny’s location, according to John Hall, a spokesman for the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office.
Deputies responded about 11 p.m. June 30 to an alarm call at the Denny’s, where deputies found evidence of forced entry and a fire blazing within.
Firefighters arrived and extinguished the flames. It was not immediately clear if the restaurant was in operation at the time.
Video surveillance helped deputies identify Serrano as the suspect, according to Riverside County sheriff’s Lt. Mike Bianco.
Serrano also has a pending misdemeanor case in Riverside County. He was charged in April with giving a false ID to a peace officer and carrying a concealed dirk or dagger, court records show.