More than four years after a fire burned through Andiamo Restaurant in the town of Newburgh, authorities announced the owner and an employee they said was his niece by marriage had been indicted for arson.
At a mid-afternoon news confefence, Orange County District Attorney David Hoovler said the suspects, Zef Gjurashaj, 59, of the town of Newburgh, and Marina Gjurashaj, 37, of Yonkers, were arrested in Westchester County on Nov. 27.
In addition to first-degree arson, a felony, both suspects also are charged with second-degree conspiracy and second-degree insurance fraud, also felonies, and fifth-degree tax fraud, a misdemeanor. They were indicted on those charges by an Orange County grand jury. The indictment was unsealed on Wednesday.
They are currently being held without bail in Orange County Jail, pending a court appearance tentatively expected to happen sometime in the next week.
The three-alarm fire significantly damaged Andiamo on Sept. 6, 2017.
Flames tore through the building on Route 9W around 10 a.m. that day, when about 75 to 100 firefighters from nine departments worked to extinguish the blaze.
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Andiamo has since reopened at a new location at 34 North Plank Road.
Hoovler said the fire was deliberately set with the hope of collecting the insurance money, which he said could have been considerable. An insurance investigation showed the business had been in financial decline.
"The building and its contents were worth about $1.6 million," Hoovler said.
Hoovler said Zef Gjurashaj hired Marina to work at the restaurant several weeks before the fire. It was Marina Gjurashaj who set fire to the building, Hoovler said. Then, in December 2017, Zef Gjurashaj filed his fraudulent insurance claim.
While avoiding specifics, Hoovler said there were suspicious elements about the fire scene from the beginning, such as burn patterns. He said an accelerant was used but declined to specify what kind.
As for the length of the investigation, he attributed that to the fact that arson has to be proved by eliminating other possibilities, such as electrical problems, mechanical problems or an "act of God."
Hoovler said that's why it took a four-year investigation that required "thousands of man-hours" before charges could be brought in the case
"Arson is one of the more difficult crimes to prove," Hoovler said.
Among the agencies the investigation involved were Newburgh town police; town of Newburgh fire inspectors and investigators; state Department of Financial Services' fraud and arson teams; Westchester County Police; Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives; and state Department of Taxation and Finance.
Hoovler said Zef and Marina Gjurashaj both face up to 25 years to life in state prison if they are convicted of the arson charge.
Erin Nolan contributed to this story.
This article originally appeared on Times Herald-Record: Fire at Newburgh's Andiamo Restaurant in 2017 leads to arson indictment
Source : https://news.yahoo.com/andiamo-restaurant-fire-2017-newburgh-171543757.html660