[www.inewsguyana.com] – A Schenectady mother and son on trial for hiring a 14-year-old boy to burn down their rental property abruptly pleaded guilty Wednesday afternoon.
Sardawatie K. Beedasee, 42, and her 21-year-old son, Romal Ramgadoo, struck plea deals as they each testified in their own defense. Beedasee had completed her testimony, prosecutor John Healy said, and Ramgadoo was in mid-cross examination when the trial broke for lunch.
When they returned from lunch, though, they both indicated they wanted a plea deal, Healy said. He obliged. Beedasee pleaded guilty to attempted arson in exchange for two to six years in state prison. Ramgadoo admitted to third-degree arson in return for a sentence of 2.5 to 7.5 years.
Both also face possible deportation to their native Guyana upon release, Healy said, as neither are U.S. citizens. Both are to be sentenced May 14, a day shy of the one-year anniversary of the fire that destroyed 66-68 Linden St.
The property was unoccupied and no one was hurt, but firefighters did put themselves at risk to enter the burning building and search for possible victims.
The two admitted to paying the 14-year-old boy to burn the home in a scheme to claim US$200,000 in insurance money on the property. Healy said at trial that Beedasee had the building burned less than a month after she took out the policy and a day before the second policy payment was due.
Healy argued that the two put the boy’s life in danger to line their own pockets. Beedasee was represented by attorney Glen Brownell and Ramgadoo by Sam Iroegbu. Neither could be reached for comment for this story.
They stated in their opening arguments that the case was one of a conspiracy against the mother and son stemming from an old grudge and a financial dispute.
The case was the first arson-for-profit prosecution brought during the 25-year tenure of Schenectady County District Attorney Robert Carney. He credited the creation of the local Arson Task Force and the investigative work of Schenectady Fire Department Capt. Doug Faulisi, Lt. Thomas Dercole and Firefighter James Penn.
Carney also noted the effectiveness of the street-camera system in the city. It captured images of the 14-year-old fleeing the scene and corroborated the account he gave to investigators.
“Schenectady knows only too well the cost of fire, both monetarily and in human suffering,” Carney said in a statement. “Hopefully, today’s guilty pleas and prison sentences will deter others contemplating insurance fraud by fire.”
The now 15-year-old arsonist expressed remorse during his testimony, Healy said, adding that the boy saw the money and didn’t think of the consequences of his actions.
“Generally speaking, his life is for the better now,” Healy said. “He’s in a much better place and doing better.” The case was tried in front of Judge James A. Murphy III. [dailygazette]