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Justice News

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

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, October 7, 2022

Man Charged With Setting Chinatown Spa On Fire With Victim Trapped Inside

Damian Williams, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, John B. DeVito, Special Agent in Charge of the New York Field Division of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (“ATF”), Keechant L. Sewell, the Commissioner of the New York City Police Department (“NYPD”), and Laura Kavanagh, Acting Fire Commissioner for the New York City Fire Department (“FDNY”), announced the unsealing yesterday of a one-count Indictment charging MARIO LUCAS with arson.  LUCAS was initially charged by Complaint and arrested on August 8, 2022.  LUCAS’s case has been assigned to the Honorable Edgardo Ramos. 

U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said: “As alleged, Mario Lucas committed a horrific arson of a Manhattan business with a victim trapped inside.  Luckily, the victim survived.  As reflected by the charge today, this Office is committed to holding individuals who would commit violence in this City accountable for their crimes.”

John B. DeVito, ATF Special Agent in Charge said:  “This alleged heinous act of arson is unacceptable.  Thankfully, the victim has survived.  ATF remains steadfast in our commitment to bring our expertise and resources to investigate and apprehend those who commit violent crimes.  We will continue to work alongside our local partners to build safer communities.”

NYPD Commissioner Keechant L. Sewell said:  “As alleged, the arson Mario Lucas sparked in June was not just a crime against a single victim in one business, but a violent assault that endangered an entire community and all the first responders who rushed in to help.  I commend our NYPD officers for their prompt response in arresting Mr. Lucas and thank them for their outstanding work in this case along with our partners in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, the ATF’s New York Field Division, and the FDNY.”

Acting Fire Commissioner Laura Kavanagh said:  “Intentionally setting a fire is a heinous crime, and doing so while knowing there is a person trapped inside is reprehensible.  We are grateful to our Fire Marshals and all law enforcement for quickly apprehending this man and keeping him off our city’s streets.” 

According to the allegations in the Indictment unsealed today in Manhattan federal court, the Complaint, and statements made in open Court:[1] 

At approximately 4:46 p.m. on June 19, 2022, LUCAS entered a spa located in Chinatown (the “Spa”), in Manhattan, New York.  LUCAS then appeared to engage in a conversation with an individual working in the Spa (the “Victim”).  At approximately 4:55 p.m., the Victim exited the lobby into the back room of the Spa, and LUCAS remained in the lobby.  At approximately 4:56 p.m., LUCAS opened his backpack and pulled out a white plastic bag that appeared to contain a plastic container full of liquid.  LUCAS then poured that liquid around the lobby of the Spa.  After pouring the liquid, LUCAS took a lighter out of his pocket and lit the liquid on fire.  The room then went up in flames. 

LUCAS tried to open the front door, but the door would not open.  The Victim appears to have still been in the back room at this time.

Video from outside the Spa shows, at approximately 4:59 p.m., smoke and fire within the Spa.  A crowd gathered around the Spa on the street, and a man used a bar stool to force open the door.  At approximately 5:00 p.m., LUCAS escaped from the Spa and ran down Eldridge Street.  Approximately one minute later, the Victim exited the Spa.

Law enforcement was able to track LUCAS’s movements through security camera footage collected from various locations in the vicinity of the Spa.  This footage showed that LUCAS removed his hooded sweatshirt and shirt and left them on the street.  He also dropped his black backpack.  LUCAS appeared to be suffering from severe burns and appeared to be trying to remove his clothing as a result.

At a location approximately two blocks from the Spa, members of the NYPD intercepted LUCAS and placed him in an ambulance.  LUCAS provided NYPD with a Guatemalan identification card bearing the name “Mario Lucas.” 

*                *                *

LUCAS, 46, of Guatemala, is charged with arson resulting in injury to another person, which carries a mandatory minimum sentence of seven years in prison and a maximum sentence of 40 years in prison. 

The maximum and minimum 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. Williams praised the outstanding investigative work of the ATF, NYPD, and FDNY. Mr. Williams also thanked the United States Marshals Service for their assistance in this case.

The prosecution is being handled by the Office’s Violent & Organized Crime Unit.  Assistant United States Attorney Elizabeth A. Espinosa, Adam S. Hobson, and Dominic Gentile are in charge of the prosecution. 

The charges contained in the Indictment 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 Indictment and the Complaint, and the description of the Indictment and the Complaint set forth herein, constitute only allegations, and every fact described should be treated as an allegation.

Topic(s): 
Violent Crime
Contact: 
Nicholas Biase (212) 637-2600
Press Release Number: 
22-315
Updated October 11, 2022