Jan. 25, 2021 By Michael Dorgan
The owner of a hookah lounge in Astoria was arrested for setting his own restaurant on fire after authorities got their hands on video that captured the incident.
Asif Raja, 54, was caught on CCTV footage lighting multiple fires inside Ignited Restaurant and Lounge, located at 30-27 Steinway St., on Aug. 4, according to the FDNY.
Raja, who is from New Jersey, can be seen dousing tables and chairs using a flammable liquid and then setting them ablaze. He then runs out through the kitchen and switches the lights off before leaving the premises.
Firefighters were called to the scene at around 10:15 p.m. after receiving reports of a gas odor and, upon arrival, discovered that the sprinkler system had put out the flames, the FDNY said.
Fire Marshals investigated the scene and determined that the cause of the fire was suspicious. They arrested Raja with the help of the Strategic Explosive and Arson Response Task Force of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
“We are extremely grateful that no one was injured during this incident and for the collaboration between all the law enforcement agencies involved in bringing this individual to justice,” said Fire Commissioner Daniel A. Nigro.
“This arrest demonstrates the strategic value of this Joint Task Force and their ability to hold those that purposely set fires in this city accountable.”
Raja will appear in a Brooklyn federal court charged with one count of arson that carries a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in prison if convicted. The maximum penalty is 20 years in prison.