NEWNAN, Ga. — A dry cleaner, Hitendrafumar Patel, has been sentenced to serve two years and six months in prison for hiring an undercover officer to burn down his drycleaning business, Economy Cleaners, in Bremen, Ga., according to U.S. Attorney Sally Quillian Yates.
“This defendant’s plot to burn down his own failing business could have had horrific consequences, possibly resulting in the destruction of property and loss of life to firefighters and innocent citizens,” says Yates.
“ATF (the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives), in partnership with our local law enforcement, arrested a potentially violent individual who was posing a significant danger to public safety personnel and the community,” says ATF Assistant Special Agent in Charge Ray Brown. “Through this cooperative effort, we were able to stop any further potential harm to the citizens of Bremen, Ga.”
According to Yates, the charges and other information detailed in court indicated that in April 2012, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) received a tip from a confidential informant that Patel, 44, had been making inquiries to find someone who would be willing to burn down his drycleaning business.
At the direction of law enforcement officers, the informant gave Patel the telephone number of an undercover GBI agent, who would pose as an arsonist. Patel called the undercover agent, whom he met June 12, 2012, at his store to discuss the intended arson. The agent recorded audio and video of the conversation.
Patel told the agent that the business was not making money and that he wanted it burned so that he could pay off the mortgage and debts with the insurance proceeds, according to Yates.
After agreeing on a price for the arson job, the undercover agent gave Patel a list of incendiary materials that the dry cleaner would need to supply the agent to use for the fire.
Patel also told the agent about another property he owned in Bowden, Ga., which Patel said he might hire the agent to burn after the Bremen arson was completed.
The dry cleaner and the agent met again June 30, 2012, at the Bremen store, where he gave the undercover agent the incendiary materials. Patel showed the agent where he hid the key to the business, and instructed the agent on how to unlock the door.
Patel paid the agent $250, promising to pay him an additional $750 after he had collected the insurance proceeds.
He was arrested immediately after the agent left the meeting, and pleaded guilty to the crime in April. His prison sentence is to be followed by three years of supervised release by U.S. District Judge Timothy C. Batten Sr.