NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Several families were burned out of their homes, four firefighters were injured — one with first-degree burns — and now investigators say a Brooklyn fire was an act of arson over rival poker games.
The burned out shell at 22-20 Vorhies is a constant reminder of the two alarm fire in May 2016.
Families were asleep upstairs, and several people had to be rescued by firefighters after becoming trapped by flames on the third floor. One firefighter also suffered first degree burns to his face.
As CBS2’s Tony Aiello reported, four men were charged with arson and federal prosecutors said they did it to shut down an illegal poker game being run from a first floor office.
The men allegedly ran a rival poker game from a building on Coney Island Ave.
Feds say the defendants reported to high-ranking members of an Eastern European mafia known as Vory V Zakone — which translates to ‘Thieves In Law.’
People who remember the dangerous fire are disgusted.
“It’s kind of evil thing they did here. Thank God nobody died,” Jhon Fuentes said.
“Setting things on fire is bad enough. When you’re setting fire to property, and people are in it, what sort of mentality is that?” David Manterfield said.
Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro praised law enforcement for the arrests.
“Our firefighters selflessly and heroically worked to rescue residents trapped in this fire, allegedly ignited by callous individuals who put firefighters and civilians in danger solely for criminal and individual gain,” he said.
The defendants were charged in a larger case involving loan sharking and extortion. They face 17 years on the arson charge alone.