Restaurant Owner and his Nephew’s Wife Face up to 25 Years to Life in Prison on Charge of
Arson in the First Degree
Orange County District Attorney David M. Hoovler announced that on Wednesday, December 8, 2021, Zef Gjurashaj, 59, of Newburgh, and his nephew’s wife, Marina Gjurashaj, 37, of Yonkers, were indicted by the Orange County Grand Jury and charged with crimes including Arson in the First Degree, Conspiracy in the Second Degree, Insurance Fraud in the Second Degree, Tax Fraud in the Fifth Degree and related offenses. The indictment alleges that the defendants conspired with each other to intentionally burn down Andiamo’s Restaurant, which was located at 5025 Route 9W, in the Town of Newburgh, Orange County, New York in September of 2017.
It is alleged that Zef Gjurashaj, who operated the restaurant business in the fall of 2017, knew that that the business was in a steep financial decline and decided to burn the business for insurance purposes. Approximately three weeks before the fire, Zef Gjurashaj hired his niece, Marina Gjurashaj to work at Andiamo’s Restaurant. The investigation into the fire revealed that on September 6, 2017, Marina Gjurashaj intentionally set fire to the building for the financial benefit of her “uncle”. Thereafter, beginning in December, 2017, Zef Gjurashaj, presented to his insurance company a fraudulent Proof of Loss seeking payment for damage caused by the fire. In support of the fraudulent Proof of Loss, Zef Gjurashaj submitted further fraudulent documents to the insurance company through 2018. It is alleged that on two occasions in 2018, Zef Gjurashaj testified falsely during an Examination Under Oath (EUO) conducted by the insurance company regarding observations of the scene of the fire.
The Town of Newburgh Police were assisted in the investigation of the fire by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, New York State Department of Financial Services, New York State Department of Taxation and Finance and the Orange County District Attorney’s Office.
The defendants were arrested on November 27, 2021 and were remanded without bail to the Orange County Jail where they remain.
Both defendants face 25 years to life in prison on the top charge of Arson in the First Degree.
District Attorney Hoovler thanked all the state, local and federal law enforcement officials who aided in the investigation and eventual apprehension of the defendants. District Attorney Hoovler further acknowledges the efforts of the Cronomer Valley Fire Department, the Westchester County Police Department and Sterling Insurance Company throughout the course of the investigation.
“Arson in the First Degree is one of the more rarely charged crimes in this state due to the complexity of proof and other legal issues and I highly commend all the law enforcement agencies for their tireless work on this case,” said District Attorney David. M. Hoovler. “The utter disregard for human life and property exhibited in this case is appalling. The defendants’ selfish actions in this case were allegedly motivated by pure greed. However, the hard work dedicated by the law enforcement professionals during the course of this investigation has brought to light the crimes these defendants hoped would disappear in the flames they set. I am proud of the selfless cooperation amongst our law enforcement partners as we seek to hold the defendants accountable for their actions”
“Insurance fraud involving arson not only burdens consumers with higher insurance premiums but also endangers lives,” said Acting New York State Department of Financial Services Superintendent Adrienne A. Harris. “Thanks to the excellent and diligent work by DFS investigators in coordination with fellow law enforcement partners, the perpetrators involved in this case have been apprehended.”
The case is being prosecuted by Special Counsel to the District Attorney Stewart Rosenwasser.