News and Press Releases

Pakistani Grocery Owner Tried to Make Fire Look Like Hate Crime

June 29, 2007

MIZRA M. AKRAM, 39, of Everett, Washington, was sentenced June 26, 2007, in U.S. District Court in Seattle to 51 months in prison, 3 years of supervised release and $200,015 in restitution for Conspiracy to Commit Arson. AKRAM was charged in August 2004, in connection with the arson at his Everett store, Continental Spices. The fire was staged to look like a hate crime with racist graffiti spray painted on the walls. At sentencing U.S. District Judge Marsha J. Pechman said, “The manner that this arson was carried out was particularly terrifying to the community Mr. Akram lived in and worked in.... I find it particularly cowardly that someone would use this kind of grafitti and leave the community to believe that others were involved.”

AKRAM was found guilty of Conspiracy to Commit Arson in February 2007, following a one-day bench trial. A year earlier, in February 2006, a mistrial was declared following an eight-day jury trial when the jury could not reach a unanimous verdict. In addition, in July 2006, AKRAM was convicted of 10 counts of Food Stamp Fraud and 13 counts of Wire Fraud in connection with a scheme to redeem food stamps for cash or double charge food stamp customers for their purchases. AKRAM was sentenced to18 months in prison on those charges. The arson sentence will be served concurrently with the fraud sentence. AKRAM was ordered to pay more than $30,000 in restitution in connection with the fraud. The restitution imposed in connection with the arson is for damage to the building and injuries suffered by an Everett firefighter who responded to the scene.

In asking for the lengthy sentence, prosecutors noted that the store had been one of a handful of places Muslims could get halal meat. Prosecutors wrote in their sentencing memo that AKRAM “not only destroyed an institution that was important to the local Muslim community, but he did so in a way that caused members of the community to believe that the store was a victim of racist violence, and that they, too, might be at risk of attack.”

AKRAM is a citizen of Pakistan with legal residency in the United States. He could be deported following his prison term.

The case was investigated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives (ATF) and the Everett Police Department. The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Andrew Friedman and Jill Otake.

For additional information please call Emily Langlie, Public Affairs Officer for the United States Attorney’s Office, at (206) 553-4110.

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