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Read The Original Story BY Melissa Bailey & Thomas MacMIllan | New Haven Independent| DEC 17, 2010 2:57 PM
Reyes, who’s 50, was arrested Friday morning on federal arson and conspiracy charges, according to Tom Carson, spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s office. Reyes is being held in detention over the weekend until a 2 p.m. hearing Monday in Hartford.
His arrest marks the end of months of speculation since his People’s Laundromat at Lombard and Downing streets burned down last July. An employee and two customers were inside at the time of the blaze. Reyes has proclaimed his innocence in the fire. He argued that he would not have put people in danger, and that the building was uninsured anyway.
Suspicion grew in June, when the feds charged a father-son pair nicknamed Baldo and Baldito with arson. The indictment said an unnamed third person ordered the fire; Reyes denied being Person No. 3. Friday, it became clear that he was, indeed, No 3.
Reyes was charged with one count of destruction by fire of property used in interstate commerce, and one count of conspiracy to destroy such property. If convicted, Reyes faces 7 to 40 years in prison.
Click here to read the federal indictment outlining Reyes’ alleged role in the fire.
The indictment marks a serious setback for a businessman who was on recovery path.
PAUL BASS FILE PHOTO
The seven-page indictment alleges that Reyes told Baldo the laundromat was causing him financial troubles that could bankrupt him. The laundromat “had to go,” Reyes said, according to the indictment. If not, Reyes allegedly argued, he could lose everything. Since Reyes was Baldo’s landlord, that would include the loss of the house Baldo and his son—Baldito—were living in.
According to the indictment:
Reyes offered to pay Baldo to torch the laundromat. Baldo asked an unnamed individual to participate. That person declined. Reyes asked Baldo, Jr. to help out. Baldo was to act as the lookout, while Baldito would set the blaze.
Prior to the July 30, 2009, fire, Reyes prepped the building for arson. With Baldo watching, Reyes cut holes in the laundromat’s drop ceiling. Reyes also turned off the laundromat’s surveillance system on several occasions.
Reyes gave Baldito step-by-step instructions on torching the laundromat. He told him to use gasoline cans, to buy gas from a specific station without cameras, to dress inconspicuously, and to follow a specific path between Baldo’s home on Maltby Street and the laundromat on Lombard Street.
Reyes told Baldito that he would put a card in the read door of the laundromat so that he could get it. Inside, he should pour gas into two holes in the ceiling, then poor a path of gas out the back door, light the fire, and then follow the same path back to Maltby Street.
Baldo gave Baldito those same instructions and physically walked him through how to do it.
On July 30, 2009, Baldito did as he had been shown and the building went up in flames. He and his father were paid by Reyes.
After the fire, firefighters noticed that the back door to the laundromat, which can only be opened from the inside, had been propped open. They also discovered three gasoline cans inside.
Less than a week later, Baldito took off for Florida to hide out. Reyes had told Baldo that the situation was “too hot” and his son should leave town. Reyes gave Baldo money for his son’s flight to Florida, and later gave him more money to pay for his time there.
Baldito, who had been burned in the blaze, lied to investigators about the cause of his burns, according to the indictment. He claimed he had been injured working on a car that caught fire.