By LEVI PASCHER
Fulton County Express
JOHNSTOWN – The owners of Dad’s Music Shop, which previously stood at the corner of State Highway 29A and 30A, have been charged with multiple felonies in connection with starting the blaze in April, according to court documents.
Garry Lane, 80, and his wife Audrey Lane, 56, both of 8 Stone St., Gloversville, have been indicted by a Fulton County Grand Jury on three felony charges including third-degree arson, second-degree insurance fraud and fourth-degree conspiracy.
During a press conference on Friday, Fulton County District Attorney Louise Sira said the couple were responsible for the April 10 fire that completely destroyed the business in an attempt to receive insurance payments.
She said between April 9 and June 8 the couple attempted to claim $151,000 in lost materials and $300,000 on the building under their existing insurance policy.
Sira said if convicted on the arson and fraud charges the pair could face a maximum sentence of 15 years in state prison.
Both local and state officials conducted a search warrant of what remained at the building on June 8 at which time various evidence was recovered, Sira said. The building has since been demolished.
The early morning blaze completely destroyed the former Dad’s Shop after the fire was originally reported at 12:06 a.m. on Friday, April 10.
Sira said officials were alerted to the fire by a local cab company who passed the structure and noticed significant smoke around midnight.
Berkshire Volunteer Fire Department Chief Bob Fancher previously said his crews arrived shortly after midnight and encountered heavy smoke and fire coming from the interior of the structure.
Authorities said numerous fire crews worked at the scene for nearly six hours to put the blaze out and the property had been deemed a total loss after it completely gutted the interior and caused significant damage to the roof.
Fulton County Fire Coordinator Steve Santa Maria said the case took several months of investigation by volunteer fire officials within the community.
He said the origin of the fire is believed to have been in the middle of the structure. Sira declined to specify who specifically started the fire and what materials were used to commit the crime.
“Until the judge makes rulings on particular evidentiary items I’m not inclined to elaborate on how the fire was set,” she said.
Sira said Lane initially told authorities that he had left his business at 4:30 p.m. on April 9 and didn’t return to the structure until he was called to the scene at the time of the fire. She said at this time neither Lane has admitted to starting the fire which destroyed the building and thousands of dollars in merchandise.
Sira said electronic evidence was secured from the scene and provided to investigators but didn’t elaborate what that evidence may include. During the press conference, Sira provided video of the April blaze shot by local media to show the magnitude of the fire.
“This truly highlights the importance of volunteer firefighters in our community,” Sira said. “In a community like Fulton County we are heavily dependent on volunteers who volunteer their time, energy and are often at risk in serious incidents.”
Two state agencies also assisted with the investigation including the state Department of Financial Services and the Office of Fire Prevention and Control.
“The charges alleged in this case represent serious crimes that endangered innocent lives and caused substantial property damage,” Acting Superintendent of Financial Services Anthony Albanese said. “Insurance fraud affect all New Yorkers by unnecessarily driving up premiums for honest consumers. The Department of Financial Services commends District Attorney Sira for her aggressive efforts in bringing this case.”
Sira said this was the first major arson investigation to take place in the county since 2007.
Both were arraigned on Friday morning by Fulton County Court Judge Polly A. Hoye and released after each posted $10,000 bond.
They are being represented by attorney Norman Mastromoro and are due to appear in Fulton County Court again on Oct. 13 at 10 a.m.