A Jamaica landlord was arrested last week on charges he set his mixed-use commercial and residential building on fire in 2000 in a scheme that nearly killed his accomplice and injured three firefighters.
Emile Moreau, 46, faces up to 25 years in prison if he is convicted of the charges, which include arson, conspiracy, assault, insurance fraud and reckless endangerment, said Queens District Attorney Richard Brown.
Moreau, now of 201 W. 120th St. in Manhattan, owned the two-story commercial and residential building at 198-12 Jamaica Ave. and was more than $50,000 behind in mortgage payments, Brown said. Prosecutors believe he set the Dec. 4, 2000 blaze to collect on an insurance settlement, the DA said.
The defendant is alleged to have conspired with another individual, who together are charged with setting fire to a heavily mortgaged building he owned and in which he was residing so that he could file a claim with his insurance carrier and obtain a damage settlement which he apparently believed would resolve his financial problems, Brown said.
Moreau allegedly hired Vincent Allen, 54, of Brooklyn, to help him start the fire in exchange for some of the insurance money, according to the criminal complaint. An investigation into the fire showed that an accelerant gasoline was used to spread the fire quickly, Brown said. Moreau and Allen allegedly splashed the gasoline in the buildings basement, he said.
Allen also was charged with a number of counts, including arson, conspiracy, assault, insurance fraud and reckless endangerment, according to the DA.
The pair pleaded not guilty to the charges Friday and were remanded without bail, Brown said.
The criminal complaint also alleges that Moreau left Allen in the basement while he went upstairs to pour more gasoline, but Allen told authorities he heard the front door slam. When Allen came upstairs to leave the burning building, he found the front door locked, the complaint said.
More than 30 firefighters responded to the 4:53 a.m. alarm, Brown said. Upon entering the building, they found Allen lying on the floor with serious burns.
Three of the firefighters were also injured: one sustained torn knee ligaments and two suffered shoulder and back injuries, requiring hospitalization, Brown said.
Their alleged actions placed the lives of firefighters at grave risk, he said. Ironically, it was the quick response and effective action by New York Citys Bravest which saved the life of the alleged accomplice.
The fire caused $50,000 worth of damage to the building, but the insurance company did not issue a payment, Brown said.
Allen was arrested on July 14 in connection with the incident and other offenses. Moreau was arrested last Thursday.
Reach reporter Courtney Dentch by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com, or by phone at 229-0300, Ext. 138.
©2002 Community News Group
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