By Manuel Valdes
The Associated Press
SEATTLE (AP) — The man who set a Seattle warehouse fire that killed four firefighters in 1995 had been planning to steal the identities of people involved in his case to collect money after his release from prison, Seattle police said June 25.
Martin Pang is in the Monroe Correctional Complex following his 1995 conviction for manslaughter. He’s scheduled to be released in 2018 after shaving time off his 35-year sentence for good behavior, Seattle police said.
But while behind bars, Pang and co-conspirator Charles McClain planned to set up credit accounts in the names of firefighters, police officers, and witnesses involved in his case by stealing their identities, and direct money to offshore accounts. Investigators say he planned to travel to Brazil upon release where he fled after the warehouse fire, police said.
“Pang saw this as an opportunity to make a ton of money, so he had a nest egg when he got out of prison,” Seattle police detective Todd Jakobsen said in a statement.
Pang already had identity information for 20 witnesses and had accessed personal information from firefighters, which he obtained through his attorney, according to police.
Investigation into Pang’s plans began in March when the Department of Corrections
learned about the scheme. They partnered with Seattle police, the FBI and Snohomish County authorities.
An undercover officer was able to infiltrate Pang and McClain’s circle.
“The detective met with McClain, who gave the detective checks, social security information, and the IDs of planned fraud targets. During the investigation, Pang also provided a police source with the names and social security numbers of key witnesses in his 1995 case,” police said in a statement.
The men also planned to siphon money out of the Tulalip Casino bank accounts, where McClain previously worked, police said.
The investigation has been forwarded to the Snohomish County prosecutor’s office. Pang could face additional prison time if he’s found guilty or lose the time he had saved from his 35-year sentence.
John Henry Browne, who represented Pang during the warehouse case but is not his attorney anymore, said he was stunned at the allegations.
“I know that during the process when I represented Martin, that he had come to grieve what he had done,” Browne said.
Browne also said he couldn’t understand the alleged motive: “Martin inherited a lot of money from his parents, who have passed on. I don’t know why he would need money.” (end)
Associated Press writer Gene Johnson contributed to this report.