An official who asked to remain anonymous told the Times that Mohammed Abdul Quadir, 54, took out a half million dollar insurance policy on his business, then paid Christopher J. Gooding, 53, two thousand dollars to set fire to it. The insurance money was allegedly meant to pay off the “significant debt” he owed his landlord and leave him a small profit.
Three other businesses were destroyed in the fire, including a newly-renovated Foodtown where the fire was initially thought to have started. Foodtown has already arranged to expand into the American Diner space. An earlier five-alarm fire which destroyed a number of businesses on the same street on October 31 is still being investigated as a possible arson.
Gooding was arrested on Thursday, arraigned on Friday and charged with third-degree arson, reckless endangerment and criminal mischief. Qadir hasn’t been arraigned yet.