Arsonist targeted firefighters in prison fraud scheme

FILE - This is a Jan. 5, 1995 file photo of Seattle firefighters pouring water on flames at a five-alarm food warehouse fire in Seattle. The fire trapped and killed four firefighters inside the warehouse when the building's main floor collapsed into the basement after an explosion. Martin Pang is expected to change his plea to guilty Thursday, Feb. 19, 1998 in a Seattle courtroom. (AP Photo/Gary Stewart)
FILE - This is a Jan. 5, 1995 file photo of Seattle firefighters pouring water on flames at a five-alarm food warehouse fire in Seattle. The fire trapped and killed four firefighters inside the warehouse when the building's main floor collapsed into the basement after an explosion. Martin Pang is expected to change his plea to guilty Thursday, Feb. 19, 1998 in a Seattle courtroom. (AP Photo/Gary Stewart)

SEATTLE (KIRO) — Martin Pang, the man behind a 1995 arson that killed four Seattle firefighters, created a scheme while in prison to funnel money meant to go to first responders, police said.

FILE - An unidentified King County Jail guard watches over accused arsonist Martin Pang during a hearing in King County Superior Court Tuesday, April 9, 1996, in Seattle. Pang is accused of setting the Jan. 5, 1995 fire at his parent's frozen food warehouse that killed four firefighters. (AP Photo/Robert Sorbo)
FILE – An unidentified King County Jail guard watches over accused arsonist Martin Pang during a hearing in King County Superior Court Tuesday, April 9, 1996, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Robert Sorbo)

“Before Pang and his accomplice, Charles McClain, went through with their plan, an undercover detective was able to infiltrate their crime ring,” Seattle police writer Spangenthal-Lee said in a statement. “The detective met with McClain, who gave the detective checks, Social Security information, and the IDs of planned fraud targets. During the investigation, Pang also provided a police source with the names and Social Security numbers of key witnesses in his 1995 case.”

Pang is currently serving a 35-year sentence at the Monroe Correctional Complex.

He is now accused of attempting to defraud and steal the identities of firefighters, police officers and witnesses involved in his case.

Department of Corrections officers partnered with the Seattle Police Department’s Major Crimes Task Force, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Snohomish Regional Drug and Gang Task Force to investigate the case.

“Pang saw this as an opportunity to make a ton of money, so he had a nest egg when he got out of prison,” said Seattle police detective Todd Jakobsen, who assisted in investigating the case.

Police believe Pang planned to take the money he accumulated from the scheme to Brazil, where he previously fled while under investigation in 1995.

“We believe Pang’s motives were both retaliation and greed,” Interim Seattle Police Chief Jim Pugel said Wednesday. “It’s very narcissistic and outrageous and a complete insult to not only the firefighters but the community.”

Authorities arrested McClain and searched Pang’s prison cell, where they found a list of the names and Social Security numbers of 20 witnesses in Pang’s 1995 arson case and found evidence he had recently accessed records containing the personal information of firefighters involved in his case through his attorney.

Authorities were able to break up the fraud scheme before Pang was able to steal any of his victims’ identities, or any money from the Tulalip Casino,” Spangenthal-Lee said. No casino customers were targeted in the scheme.

Police have forwarded the case to the Snohomish County Prosecutor’s Office for charges.

If convicted in the scheme, Pang could lose significant “good behavior time” he has accumulated while serving his current sentence, and could also face an additional five years in prison, according to Spangenthal-Lee.

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