In a scheme to collect insurance money, a mother and son hired a 14-year-old to commit arson, police said.
They offered the following account:
Sardawatie K. Beedasee, 42, of Schenectady, decided to collect insurance on her vacant house at 66-68 Linden St. by burning it down.
So she told her 21-year-old son Romal Ramgadoo to find someone who would accept money to start the fire.
He allegedly hired a 14-year-old, who set the fire on May 15.
“And start it he did,” said police spokesman Lt. Mark McCracken. “It was a totally involved structure. Flames through the roof.”
The first call on the fire came in at 10:28 p.m. on May 15, said Assistant Fire Chief Michael Gillespie. But already the fire had a good start.
“There was significant damage to the house. A lot of damage to the upper floor and roof,” he said.
No firefighters were injured, but the siding on the two adjacent houses melted.
The Fire Department’s arson task force ran the investigation, as it has done for more than a year. Many arsons have been solved during that time.
Gillespie said there wasn’t one telling piece of evidence that compelled the task force to home in on the case, as they look closely at every fire.
“It’s just the time and effort we’re putting into these investigations. We’re getting better at it every day,” he said. “A lot of it is eliminating things.”
He said the fact that the building was vacant and burned down in summer was not enough to make arson likely.
“Is the power and gas shut off? Is there a thunderstorm? We’ve had lightning strike houses and start a fire, so you have to look at the weather. The potential of a cigarette being dropped somewhere,” he said. “Every investigation starts as an open, unwritten book.”
But he added that in all his years with the Fire Department, he’d never before heard of a family paying a minor to torch a house.
“This is probably the first time I’ve encountered something like that,” he said.
McCracken added that the teen has a lengthy criminal history, saying the arson is not even the most serious crime he had been accused of committing.
“It’s one of many mistakes the young man has made in his life,” McCracken said.
The mother and son lived at another address in the city. McCracken said the vacant house at 66-68 Linden St. was probably a rental property. The mother held the title.
Both mother and son were arrested on arson charges late Monday night. They each face a class C felony, punishable by up to 15 years in prison.
The 14-year-old, whose name was not released because of his age, was also arrested and will be sent to Family Court.