A Brooklyn, New York, man has been arrested and is facing federal arson charges for setting a fire to a yeshiva and synagogue on May 19, according to a statement provided from the U.S. Department of Justice Saturday.
Ali Alaheri, 29, allegedly set an intentional fire to a yeshiva and a synagogue early Wednesday morning.
According to a criminal complaint that was filed in federal court, surveillance video captured Alaheri stacking trash bags next to the building and then setting them ablaze. Firefighters responded to the fire alarm at the building and managed to put out the blaze.
Several hours after the fire, another surveillance video caught Alaheri beating a man wearing traditional Hasidic clothing on the same block as the yeshiva. The statement from the Department of Justice said that no prior interaction took place before Alaheri assaulted the man.
Prosecutors said that Alaheri took the victim’s cell phone but “subsequently dropped it,” reported WNBC.
Mark Lesko, acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, said in a statement: “This Office strongly condemns these sorts of intentional acts of violence and we will go to every length possible to prosecute this type of conduct to the fullest extent possible.”
Alaheri was arrested Friday after being stopped by police in Dobbs Ferry, appearing to have been wearing the same clothing as in the two surveillance videos taken on Wednesday, the statement released.
He was set to be seen in federal court on Saturday. If convicted, Alaheri could face a minimum sentence of five years in prison.
New York City Fire Department Commissioner Daniel Nigro stated: “Arson is a callous and senseless crime that endangers the lives of innocent residents and our firefighters who bravely respond to protect life and property. I commend our Fire Marshals and their partners in law enforcement for their outstanding efforts to investigate this incident and apprehend the suspect.”
“The members of ATF’s Arson and Explosives Task Force, in partnership with NYPD‘s Hate Crime Unit, worked diligently to quickly identify the defendant and bring him to justice,” John DeVito, special agent-in-charge, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), also remarked in the announcement. “I thank them for their efforts, as well as those of the U.S. Attorney’s Office, in sending a clear message that crimes such as this will not be tolerated.”
WNBC reported that investigators are connecting Alaheri to a number of other alleged crimes throughout the city: an attack against a Black man on the subway on May 5; the burning of an American flag outside a Catholic church; and the desecration of a crucifix at St. Athanasius Roman Catholic Church in Brooklyn last week.
Newsweek reached out to the Department of Justice for comment.