Employee accused of setting eight hotel fires
NEW YORK — A security officer who worked at two Manhattan hotels was arrested Saturday and charged with setting eight fires at the hotels over four years, fire officials said.
According to fire marshals, Mariano Barbosa Jr., director of security at the Yotel on 10th Avenue and 42nd Street, set the fires in an attempt to make the hotels less popular and his job more manageable.
Barbosa, 30, of Union City, N.J., had also worked as a security officer at the SoHo Grand on West Broadway.
He is accused of starting the fires, the first in 2009 and the last this month, in hallways, in stairwells and in front of exit doors to maximize the potential damage. He was on duty when the fires broke out, the Fire Department said. All of the fires, which were set between 10:11 p.m. and 5:09 a.m., were quickly extinguished.
Two firefighters suffered minor injuries in a fire in February, said Jim Long, the Fire Department’s director of public information.
Barbosa was arrested, Long said, after he submitted to voluntary questioning. It became clear during those interviews that Barbosa was the likely culprit, Long said.
It appeared to fire marshals that Barbosa had grown tired of patrons at the hotels’ bars and parties, said a fire official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the continuing investigation.
“He desired that the incidents would be blamed on the clientele, and if that was the case maybe they would curtail the parties, and the venues would be more manageable,” the official said.
Yotel said in a statement that it was cooperating with the Fire Department and the police.
A spokeswoman for the SoHo Grand declined to comment.
“It’s disturbing that an individual charged with the safety of hotel occupants would callously endanger their lives — and the lives of firefighters — for personal gain,” the fire commissioner, Salvatore J. Cassano, said in a statement.
Before Barbosa’s arraignment in Manhattan Criminal Court on Saturday evening, his wife, Leslie Martinez, 27, said Yotel gave him an award last year, which included a four-day trip to Las Vegas.
She said he worked hard for the company and often slept in complimentary rooms, just so he could be there when he woke up for his next shift.
“This is a slap in the face,” Martinez said, fighting back tears. “I don’t understand how all of the sudden he’s the bad guy.”