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5 charged with arson in ’98 Doug fire

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Five people were arrested Friday and charged with arson for allegedly using a homemade explosive created with Internet instructions to set a Douglaston home on fire in 1998 because one of the residents was gay, court documents revealed.

According to the complaint filed in Queens Criminal Court Saturday, the five people arrested last week in the 1998 fire case were originally planning to bomb a different home but were chased away before they could cause any damage.

Those arrested include Audrey Maroti, 20, Demetrios Cherpelis, 20, and Paul Nardozi, 24, of Little Neck; and Constantin Kalloudis, 19, and Leonard Stein, 20, of Douglaston, authorities said.

Two of the suspects told authorities they had chosen to attack the house on 71st Avenue because they thought one of the residents was gay, according to the criminal complaint.

Queens District Attorney Richard Brown’s office has identified the May 30, 1998 incident as a hate crime and charged the four men and one woman with several counts of arson, criminal mischief, assault and reckless endangerment. The suspects face a possible sentence of 20 years to life in prison if convicted of arson.

The Fire Department labeled the 71st Avenue fire as suspicious in 1998 and reopened the investigation last summer after getting a tip from an informant, an NYFD spokesman said.

One person suffered minor injuries in the blaze that allegedly caused $125,000 damage to the Douglaston home, the court papers said.

The homemade explosive used to start the fire was created from an M80 firecracker taped to a can of hair spray that was placed on a windowsill in the front of the home about midnight, according to the criminal complaint.

Maroti has been accused of providing the can of hair spray as well as being in the getaway car, according to the criminal complaint.

After the suspects allegedly built the explosive, one of them supposedly said “let’s do it,” referring to the home of the eventual victim.

Maroti, Cherpelis, Nardozi, Kalloudis and Stein allegedly were planning to target a different acquaintance at home before setting the blaze at 71st Avenue, according to the criminal complaint.

Reach reporter Kathianne Boniello by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 146.

Posted 7:06 pm, October 10, 2011
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