The arsonist convicted of setting the 1995 warehouse fire that killed four Seattle firefighters is now accused of trying to defraud and steal the identities of firefighters, police officers, and witnesses from prison.
Officials with the Washington State Department of Corrections reportedly learned in March that Martin Pang hatched the elaborate fraud scheme with another man on the outside.
Pang is currently serving a 35-year-sentence at the Monroe Correctional Complex.
According to the Seattle Police Department, a joint task force including DOC, SPD’s Major Crimes Task Force (MCTF), the FBI and Federal Bureau of Investigation, Snohomish Regional Drug and Gang Task Force partnered to thwart the plan.
Pang and his accomplice Charles McClain allegedly planned to set up credit accounts in the names of firefighters, police officers, and witnesses involved in Pang’s 1995 conviction for manslaughter and transfer the money to offshore bank accounts.
Officials say the men also planned to steal money from the bank accounts of the Tulalip Casino, where McClain previously worked.
Pang and his co-conspirator allegedly thought they could net tens of millions of dollars from their scheme. Pang reportedly planned to use the money to go to Brazil, where he fled while under investigation after the 1995 Mary Pang warehouse fire.
“We believe that Pang’s motives were both retaliation and greed,” said acting Seattle Police chief Jim Pugel at a news conference Tuesday afternoon. “We are glad to be able to stop Pang’s plan to steal money to subsidize what would have been a luxury life in Brazil.”
Investigators say a detective was able to infiltrate the duo and got checks, ID’s and social security information gleaned from a number of the planned targets.
McClain allegedly also provided names and social security numbers of key witnesses from his 1995 case.
After arresting McClain, a search of Pang’s prison cell turned up a list of the names and social security numbers of 20 witnesses in Pang’s 1995 arson case. Investigators also found evidence he had recently accessed records through his attorney with personal information of firefighters involved in his case.
Detectives stopped the scheme before the pair could steal any identities or money.
The case has been forwarded to the Snohomish County Prosecutor’s Office for charges.
“The latest allegations bring back painful memories for the families of the four firefighters who died in the line of duty and for the Seattle firefighters,” said Seattle Fire Chief Gregory Dean.
Pang, scheduled for release in 2018, could face another five years in prison if convicted and lose significant “good behavior time,” accumulated while serving his sentence.