Landlord guilty of arson in fire at Jamaica house

By Philip Newman

A jury of six men and six women convicted a 47-year-old landlord of arson for profit in setting fire to his home in Jamaica, causing serious burns to his accomplice, who was trapped in the burning building, the Queens district attorney said.

Three firefighters who responded to the fire were also injured.

Emile Moreau of 201 West 120th St. in Manhattan was found guilty Friday of what Queens DA Richard Brown said was “masterminding a dangerous plot aided by an accomplice to set fire to a heavily mortgaged building he owned … to enable him to file an insurance claim and receive a settlement.

“Firefighters placed their lives at grave risk and three were injured and their quick response and effective action saved the accomplice life,” Brown said.

The district attorney said Moreau previously lived at 190-12 Jamaica Ave. in Jamaica, the scene of the fire.

Vincent Allen, 54, of 208 Grafton St. in Brooklyn, who Brown identified as the accomplice, testified for the prosecution.

The jury deliberated two days after a four-week trial presided over by Justice Arthur Cooperman of State Supreme Court and found Moreau guilty of arson and reckless endangerment in the first degree and attempted murder, conspiracy, insurance fraud, criminal solicitation, and assault, all in the second degree. Moreau faces up to 35 years to life in prison upon sentencing March 9.

Engine Co. 301 and Ladder Co. 150 and Ladder Co. 162 responded to the fire at 4:53 a.m. on Dec. 4, 2000. The firefighters broke down an apartment door, found the accomplice had suffered third-degree burns to his face, hands and arms and carried him to safety. Investigators said Moreau fled the burning building but Allen could not get out, finding the front door locked.

An investigation indicated gasoline had been poured onto floors and ignited, causing more than $50,000 damage.

Allen was arrested and charged with arson and other offenses in July 2002 and Moreau was arrested a month later. Allen was later freed in exchange for testifying against Moreau.

A criminal complaint alleged that Moreau asked for Allen’s help in setting the fire and promised Allen some of the insurance money. The complaint said Moreau was more than $50,000 in arrears on a mortgage for the building, owed more than $200,000 to Owen Federal Bank for the property and had filed a claim seeking a settlement from Seneca Insurance Co.

Reach contributing writer Philip Newman by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 136.

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