Fire Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta announced today that Fire Marshals arrested a 49-year-old Manhattan woman and charged her with setting fires in several Harlem clothing stores as a scheme to cover up her shoplifting.
Video surveillance tape captured the woman, Savanna Johnson, stealing clothes and then using a cigarette lighter to ignite a rack of clothes. The fire, which occurred on April 17, 2005 , at the H&M clothing store at 125 West 125th Street , served as a diversion that allowed her to flee the store unchecked by security.
Johnson was arrested Wednesday at the H&M store by Fire Marshals Andrew DiFusco and Frank Heffel, who were alerted by store security officers who had recognized her from the surveillance tapes. She is also being charged with a similar theft/arson at an Old Navy store at 300 West 125th Street .
Johnson is charged with arson in the second degree, reckless endangerment in the second degree, possession of stolen property, petit larceny and criminal possession of a controlled substance in the seventh degree.
She has previously been arrested 59 times, throughout the country, for crimes including shoplifting, drug possession, petit larceny, prostitution and burglary.
Chief Fire Marshal Louis Garcia will hold a press conference today at Fire Department Headquarters at 1:00PM. Chief Garcia will discuss the investigation and the arrest as well as distribute a video.
Press Contact: Francis X. Gribbon / James Long, FDNY (718) 999-2056