What a Gas! Would-Be Arsonist Nabbed With Tanks in Hand Before Lighting Match

Jun 13, 2011 at 10:30 am

Attention struggling homeowners: Has the bad economy prevented you from selling your house? Well, there's always the option of torching it and collecting the insurance money.

Though nobody has confirmed that exact motive in Pine Lawn over the weekend, a confession by a would-be arsonist suggests as much. Late Saturday night, 37-year-old Robert Lustera was caught by police exiting a home with gas tanks in his hands. The home, located on the 3700 block of Manola Avenue, is currently vacant and up for sale. Lustera later told his interrogators that he was offered $300 or $400 by the brother of the homeowner to burn the joint down to the ground, according to Pine Lawn spokesman Lou Thimes Jr.

"Formally, I can't say why [the homeowner] asked him to do it," Thimes tells Daily RFT. "But it might have been the fact that they could no longer pay for it. So he probably opted to torch it, get some money off of it and be done with it."

A phone call by an anonymous tipster who saw Lustera entering the building with gas tanks led to his arrest. Just before he was caught, he'd "saturated" the floor with gas, says Thimes. He'd also blown holes in the building's walls so it would burn down quicker. "He knew what he was doing," says Thimes, noting that the potential blaze could have threatened the lives of each of the next-door neighbors.

A query on Casenet.com produced no criminal history on Lustera.

The investigation is ongoing. We have requested a copy of the police report in attempt to track down the owner of the home. We'll update you if we have any luck.