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Teens charged with St. Petersburg arsons suspected in Pinellas Park fires

Police say the five teens arrested in connection with a string of St. Petersburg fires may be responsible for recent car fires in Pinellas Park, including a Corvette set ablaze Sunday.

Pinellas Park police Capt. Sandy Forseth said his city has had nine incidents similar to the 14 St. Petersburg fires Sunday in which the teens are suspected.

"We believe they're related," Forseth said.

Pinellas Park police responded to a string of seven vehicle and home fires on the night of Jan. 19 and two Sunday, Forseth said. The same type of devices used in the St. Petersburg fires — Molotov cocktails made from soda bottles — were found at the scenes.

Shane Howard's 1991 Chevrolet Corvette convertible was torched about 4 a.m. Sunday. Howard was watching television when he saw what he thought was a big explosion.

"It lit up the whole front window," Howard said Tuesday.

When he got outside, flames were more than 2 feet high. The fabric top had been cut.

"We just put $3,000 into the engine," said Howard, who customized the car for his wife.

The teens — Mathew Pineda Kiernan 16; Francis Huy Du, 16; Alain Nguyenj, 18; Tan Minh Tran, 16; and Quoc Tan Lam, 17 — face felony arson charges in connection with the St. Petersburg fires.

After the teens' arrest Sunday, police said they quickly linked them to other incidents. Pinellas sheriff's officials also are investigating possible ties to other criminal mischief.

The total amount of damage is unknown.

So far, officials said three cars had minor damage, four had moderate damage and five cars — two Chrysler Sebrings, one Chrysler PT Cruiser, one Pontiac 6000 and an Acura Legend — were destroyed. A BMW motorcycle and a scooter also were destroyed.

Police have said none of the teens has criminal records and many were honor students trying to earn college scholarships. The teens admitted the crimes and said they committed them out of boredom, police said.

Howard said he and his wife will have to come up with several thousand dollars to fix the car. He said insurance won't cover it.

"I hope they do something good with their lives, but I'd like to see them pay restitution," Howard said. "We all did stupid things as kids like toilet papering, but we never went out and burned a $45,000 car."

Teens charged with St. Petersburg arsons suspected in Pinellas Park fires 02/03/09 [Last modified: Thursday, February 5, 2009 12:01am]
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