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Business Owner Charged in Connection with Mini-Mall Blaze

April 29, 2005|By Jennifer Berry

A business owner who suffered burns to more than 80 percent of his body in an early-morning fire at a La Crescenta mini-mall last year was taken into custody last Friday night on suspicion of starting the fire that caused at least $2 million in damage to the building and its contents.

United States Customs and Border Patrol agents detained Tony Yarijanian, 37, of Glendale, at Los Angeles International Airport April 22 at about 7 p.m. Customs agents stopped the Glendale man as he was going through customs after a business trip abroad. They contacted Los Angeles police, who brought Yarijanian to the Glendale Police Station.

Yarijanian faces three felony charges of arson to a structure or forestland, arson to property and presenting a false or fraudulent insurance claim. The first charge stems from the fire that broke out at about 6:30 a.m. Feb. 15, 2004, at the mini-mall at 4121 Pennsylvania Ave. It destroyed three businesses, including Safari Tan, which Yarijanian had opened less than a year before.

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Besides the structure damaged in the blaze, two sport utility vehicles - one Yarijanian drove to work that morning - and a Chevrolet Tahoe owned by an unrelated woman, were a complete loss after being damaged by the blaze. The damage to the latter vehicle is the basis for the second charge.

The third charge Yarijanian faces stems from the fact he filed a claim with his insurance company for the total of his insurance policy. Police claim Yarijanian started the blaze in order to collect the $250,000 insurance money, said Glendale Police Department Arson Investigator Miguel Porras and Glendale Fire Department Arson Investigator Michael Richardson. This is one of many cases Porras and Richardson have worked together to solve.

"We're proud of the cooperation between our agencies," said GFD Fire Prevention Bureau Battalion Chief Robert Doyle.

Yarijanian has not received any reimbursement, they added.

Fire and police officials said they initially investigated the fire as an accidental blaze, but determined the cause to be arson. They said they did not immediately suspect Yarijanian. Glendale police conducted a search warrant on Yarijanian's house Feb. 17, 2004, Richardson said.

When asked, investigators would not comment on whether Yarijanian had a previous criminal record.

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