Police investigators say they’ve stymied an elaborate identity fraud scheme by arsonist Martin Pang that focused on stealing the identities of firefighters, police officers and witnesses involved in his 1995 case.
According to Seattle police, officials with the Washington State Department of Corrections (DOC) learned in March that Pang was working with an accomplice on the outside to siphon money from his victims’ accounts into an offshore account.
Pang pleaded guilty 18 years ago to four counts of manslaughter for setting a fire that destroyed a warehouse owned by his parents in the International District. Police and prosecutors said he set the blaze, which took the lives of Lt. Walter Kilgore, Lt. Gregory Shoemaker and firefighters Randall Terlicker and James Brown, for the insurance money.
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Pang is serving a 35-year-sentence at the Monroe Correctional Complex and was slated for discharge in 2018. Investigators with the SPD’s Major Crimes Task Force, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Snohomish Regional Drug and Gang Task Force said Pang intended to use the money to move to Brazil and live well upon his release.
“Pang saw this as an opportunity to make a ton of money, so he had a nest egg when he got out of prison,” said Todd Jakobsen, a detective with Major Crimes Task Force.
Police said Pang had gained access to the Social Security numbers and other personal information of those involved in the investigation and prosecution of his criminal case through court records obtained by his attorney.
Pang and his accomplice, Charles McClain, also planned to steal money from bank accounts of the Tulalip Casino, where Pang’s accomplice previously worked, police said.
An undercover detective was able to infiltrate the group and was given checks, Social Security information, and the IDs of intended targets by McClain.
During the investigation, Pang also provided a police source with the names and Social Security numbers of key witnesses in his 1995 case. “He wanted to make a bunch of money and already had their information from court documents,” Jakobsen said. “This was a crime of opportunity.”
Seattle police said a search of Pang’s prison cell yielded a list of the names and Social Security numbers of 20 witnesses in Pang’s 1995 arson case and found evidence he had recently accessed records containing the personal information of firefighters involved in his case through his attorney.
Authorities were able to break up the fraud scheme before Pang was able to steal any of his victims’ identities, or any money from the Tulalip Casino. No casino customers were targeted in the scheme, according to Seattle police.
McClain has been arrested, and Pang faces additional time in prison if convicted on charges connected to the alleged theft attempts.
Police have forwarded the case to the Snohomish County Prosecutor’s Office for charges because Pang is serving his sentence in Monroe.