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Man faces arson charges in May fire at Pa. restaurant

February 11, 2006|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. -

A Huntingdon, Pa., man was jailed on $500,000 bail Friday after being charged by Pennsylvania State Police with setting fire last year to a Hamilton Township restaurant he was in the process of buying.

Giovanni Ferrara, 46, of 2451 Coldspring Road, was charged with one first-degree felony count of arson, two second-degree felony counts of arson and third-degree felony insurance fraud, according to the affidavit of probable cause dated Jan. 9. He was arraigned Friday before Magisterial District Judge Richard Alloway II.

The fire at Original Italian Pizza & Restaurant at 3218 Lincoln Way West was called in by witnesses on the night of May 30, according to the affidavit of probable cause. State Police Fire Marshal Trooper Stanford Sydnor, now retired, investigated and determined the fire had been intentionally set.

When first interviewed at the scene, Ferrara said he was in Mount Union, Pa., when he learned of the fire through a cell phone call, police said. Ferrara agreed to allow his vehicle to be searched, and police found a box of frozen shrimp and chicken patties and a plastic spray bottle filled with gasoline, the affidavit stated.

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Ferrara told police he had taken the food home for his family and he kept the bottle of gasoline for emergencies because his gas gauge did not work, according to the affidavit. Interviewed later, Ferrara allegedly told police he had been inside the restaurant that night and "became upset over the lack of business," tossing a cigarette on the floor near a pile of cardboard boxes in the kitchen, the affidavit stated.

The affidavit stated the business and building were owned by two other men at the time of the fire.

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