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3 plead guilty to setting fire in rice-cake factory

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Nearly 11 months after a fire destroyed a rice-cake factory in downtown Flushing, three men, including the owner of a competing business in Flushing, pleaded guilty to setting the early morning blaze, authorities said.

The owner of the competing rice-factory, Mien-Chiang Liang, of Flushing, admitted to investigators that he had hired two men, one of whom is a reputed gang member, to burn down his competition, Queens District Attorney Richard Brown announced last week.

Liang, 42, pleaded guilty June 6 and was sentenced to nine years in prison by Justice Stephen Grosso of State Supreme Court in Kew Gardens.

One of the men Liang hired, Chih Sheng of Flushing, bought a container of gasoline and left it in an alley behind a store where the second man, Chen Lu of Forest Hills, had worked, the district attorney said. On July 26, Lu, 18, went to the factory at 33-33 Prince St. with a 15-year-old, his lookout who was not identified because of his age, Brown said. To gain entry, Lu smashed a window and once inside poured gasoline in an area toward the rear of the building.

But the gasoline came in contact with a pilot light, the district attorney said, causing an explosion that injured both Lu and the lookout. None of the tenants living above the factory were injured.

Lu and his lookout then left the factory and traveled to Liang’s home at 41-02 College Point Blvd., the same location as his rice-cake factory, Brown said. Liang took both teenagers to New York Hospital Medical Center of Queens, where they were treated, Brown said.

Witnesses had told the fire investigators at the scene that they had seen two young men, both of them injured, leaving the factory shortly after the explosion, fire officials had said. Soon after, the investigators went to the hospital and took down a statement from one of the men, the officials said. Lu and the 15-year-old were arrested at the hospital, the district attorney said.

Liang, who accompanied the teenagers to the hospital, agreed to pay $15,000 to cover their legal and medical expenses, the district attorney said. Liang was then placed under arrest.

In addition to Liang, his godson, Sheng, pleaded guilty to charges of reckless endangerment and was sentenced by Grosso to a term of 2 1/3 to seven years in prison.

Although Lu, a reputed member of the Flying Dragons street gang, had pleaded guilty to arson, he has not been sentenced yet. He is expected to receive eight years in prison when Grosso does so on June 26.

Reach reporter Chris Fuchs by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 156.

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