The Austin Arsonist

Share this story:

He’s one of Austin’s biggest car dealers, but Bryan Hardeman is now famous for a much different reason. He’s an accused arsonist caught on tape and we’ve learned investigators are looking for his fingerprints on THREE OTHER FIRES in February.

“Breaking news out of South Austin: major fire. Firefighters arrived at the scene to find heavy smoke and discovered there were combustible products inside the building,” a news anchor said.

Part of Austin’s South Congress Avenue shut down as a two alarm fire in a vacant commercial building kept firefighters in the capital city busy for hours.

There was half a million dollars in damage.

Just an hour and a half later, fire broke out in this now empty bike shop in downtown Austin.

According to this affidavit we’ve obtained from an Austin Fire Department investigator, the lock had been drilled out on the front door.

Liquid had been spread in several places.

“He’s also observed a striking of multiple matches and dropping the match onto liquid, which he had previously poured, which ignites the fire,” arson investigator, Jeffrey Deane said.

How do fire investigators know so much detail?

“We recovered some security video that was pretty vital and through some additional investigative steps, we were able to identify a person of interest,” Deane said.

Hours later, DPS got their man.

It was a shocker in the capital city.

“At CAG, we have three core values,” a narrator says in an advertisement.

It was one of the state’s biggest car dealers.

75 year-old Bryan Hardeman, now charged with multiple felonies: burglary, arson.

“He’s currently been charged with second degree felony arson, which carries two to 20 years. And then he’s also been charged with state jail felony burglary.

This is his mug shot.

Hardeman hasn’t been charged with the 4917 fire, at least not yet.

Austin Fire investigators didn’t make the connection at first, but our folks noticed an immediate connection.

The 4917 property is owned by 4811 SOCO LP, an entity controlled by Hardeman’s family, managed by a guy named Justin Bayne.

They also own 4811 South Congress just a block away.

Austin firefighters were called there twice in February.

An affidavit calls Hardeman a person of interest in one at least one of those fires.

There was a fire on the 17th of February and another on the 20th, three days later.

Both were declared arson.

The day after that second fire, Mr. Hardeman filed for divorce after 43 years of marriage.

“I don’t give a shit,” Hardeman said.

Our viewers have seen Hardeman before as part of our ongoing Austin real estate investigation.

“And you’re not accepting the funds? We have tender payment in full. You don’t care? You’re not accepting it?” said person recording Hardeman.

Companies linked to Hardeman have been accused of illegally seizing properties owned by another Austin developer you’ve seen in the news too. Nate Paul, and his lawyer is now reacting to Hardeman’s arrest.

“Well, it crushes his credibility,” Manfred Sternberg said in an interview.

Hardeman and associates bought the loans Paul had gotten behind on and then foreclosed on the properties, ugly foreclosure sales during COVID that were captured on video.

On camera, we saw Paul trying to pay off the loans before the foreclosure, which by Texas law, you’re allowed to do.

But, he was denied the chance to do it by Hardeman caught on camera.

Here’s a Dolcefino Media flashback.

There was something Brian Hardeman said on video tape that day that we especially wanted to save: his confidence about what would happen if Nate Paul tried to sue him in this building.

Listen very carefully.

“Go around and go find you a court in this building to come and stop this. Why don’t you try that,” Hardeman said to Paul.

“Maybe he believes he’s above the law or maybe he believes that he’s got friends in the courthouse. I don’t know, but it will be interesting to see what happens,” Sternberg said.

It led us to an ongoing investigation into whether justice being dispensed in the Travis County Courthouse can be bought.

And it looks like Hardeman had reasons to brag.

His lawyers have donated at least $20,000 to Judge Jan Soifer, a lot of it during the Hardeman/Paul legal fight.

Since our video questioning her legal calls, $7,000 more.

Another $11,000 to Judge Amy Meachum.

Those two liberal democratic judges have issued a lot of rulings that helped Hardeman’s companies.

Maybe it’s a way of getting back at Attorney General Ken Paxton.

His relationship with Paul led to that failed impeachment.

Now that Hardeman is accused of burglary and arson, voters should watch future court rulings very closely.

“Anybody that would do what he’s alleged to have done would certainly try to steal property from Nate Paul in the courthouse,” Sternberg said.

Two of the Austin arson fires happened at a mobile home park at 4811 South Congress, which is mired in litigation since that foreclosure we got on tape from May of 2021.

The guy who won that bid was infamous Houston real estate developer Ali Choudhri, but the property ended up instead being owned by Hardeman’s associates—his family.

Choudhri has sued and so has Nate Paul.

The litigation has yet to be resolved.

But Hardeman’s credibility as a witness going forward, has certainly taken a big hit.

Hardeman’s arson arrest is fueling renewed interest in what we first told you two years ago: evidence Hardeman and his car companies may have used PPP loans improperly—more than $10,000,000 in government COVID loans.

Listen to this curious timing.

On the very same day Hardeman’s car companies got that government loan, records from the Texas Secretary of State show a company was formed called Colorado 3rd Street LLC.

On paper, the company is owned by this guy, Justin Bayne.

Two weeks later, that same company bought the loans owed by Paul’s companies on the Capitol Grille building.

But, where did Justin Bayne get the cash to pull the trigger on this $25,000,000 property?

We followed the money.

The funding for Colorado Third Street LLC was provided by Austin Infiniti and Continental Cars—two dealerships owned by Brian Hardeman’s family.

The same car dealerships that needed all those millions to supposedly pay employees and got COVID money to do it.

Hardeman has been asked about the money before in a sworn deposition.

“You know if any of those funds were used ultimately to flow into Zone Rio?” An attorney asked Hardeman.

“Oh, I doubt it,” Hardeman replied.

“Who would be able to tell us?” The attorney asked.

“Nobody would be able to,” Hardeman answered.

The big question: will the arson investigations now broaden into Hardeman’s controversial real estate dealings?

“Does Nate Paul feel vindicated?” Wayne Dolcefino asked.

“Not yet, no. Not yet. Time will come. This is all part of what’s he’s been saying for all this time, is that the real bad guys are on the other side of the case, not Nate,” Sternberg said.

Keep up with us on social media: