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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Southern District of New York

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Brooklyn Man Charged In Connection With String Of Arsons In Midtown Manhattan

Geoffrey S. Berman, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Ashan M. Benedict, the Special Agent-in-Charge of the New York Field Division of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (“ATF”), James P. O’Neill, the Commissioner of the New York City Police Department (“NYPD”), and Daniel A. Nigro, the Commissioner of the New York City Fire Department (“FDNY”), announced today the arrest of JAMAL DEESE in connection with a string of arsons in New York, which occurred from August 5, 2018, through August 7, 2018.  DEESE was arrested yesterday evening, and was presented today in Manhattan federal court before the U.S. Magistrate Judge Katharine H. Parker.

U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said:  “As alleged, Jamal Deese set more than a dozen fires in midtown Manhattan locations during a three-day span.  His alleged serial arsons threatened public safety and necessitated the deployment of valuable firefighting and law enforcement resources.  Thanks to the work of the ATF, NYPD, and FDNY, Deese is in custody and will be prosecuted.” 

ATF Special Agent-in-Charge Ashan M. Benedict said:  “The defendant’s alleged conduct placed New Yorkers, commuters, and visitors at extreme and indiscriminate risk of injury or worse, and had the potential to cause extensive damage to businesses and property.  While we are fortunate that there were no known injuries, the defendant will nonetheless face the consequences for his alleged arson spree.  I’d like to thank the members of ATF’s SEAR Task Force and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for their efforts thus far in this investigation.”

NYPD Commissioner James P. O’Neill said:  “The potential for serious injury or death was very real as Jamal Deese allegedly went on a spree across a swath of Midtown Manhattan.  Fortunately, the collaborative efforts of our city and federal partners stopped him before further mayhem could occur.  Today’s arrest is the result of the type of quick and effective investigative work performed each day in New York City.”

FDNY Commissioner Daniel A. Nigro said:  “I’m proud of the outstanding collaborative investigation by the Arson Response Task Force to apprehend an individual whose alleged crimes needlessly put many lives in danger.  Arson is a dangerous, potentially deadly crime; and thanks to our Fire Marshals, NYPD Detectives and ATF agents, an alleged serial arsonist has been stopped before anyone could be injured.”

According to the allegations in the Complaint sworn out in Manhattan federal court:[1]

From August 5, 2018, through August 7, 2018, DEESE set trashcan fires in the bathrooms of at least four midtown restaurants.  He also set trashcan fires outside and inside the Amtrak terminal at Penn Station.  During the course of his arson spree, DEESE ignited at least 14 fires at Penn Station and in the restaurants.  DEESE was apprehended when he returned to one of the restaurants in which he had previously ignited a fire.

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DEESE, 24, of Brooklyn, New York, is charged with four counts of arson, each of which carries a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in prison and a maximum 20 years in prison.  The maximum potential sentences in this case are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the judge.

Mr. Berman praised the outstanding investigative work of ATF, NYPD, FDNY, and the Strategic Explosive and Arson Response Task Force. 

This case is being handled by the Office’s General Crimes Unit.  Assistant United States Attorney Kyle A. Wirshba is in charge of the prosecution.

The charges contained in the Complaint are merely accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.


[1] As the introductory phrase signifies, the entirety of the text of the Complaint and the description of the Complaint set forth herein constitute only allegations, and every fact described should be treated as an allegation.

Press Release Number: 
Updated August 9, 2018