MCFRS News Release

Year-old Arson Case Ends in Arrest of Clarksburg Man

Charged with Arson and Insurance Fraud

A Clarksburg man has been arrested for his 2006 involvement in a house fire near Damascus, Maryland. Fire and Explosive Investigators assigned to the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service have charged Pandu Rao-Ippili, age 34, of York Mill Lane, Clarksburg, Maryland for setting a fire to house on Ridge Road near Damascus, Maryland on August 13, 2006.

Earlier today, September 15, 2007, Fire Investigators once again questioned Mr. Rao-Ippili, after which they placed him under arrest and charged him with one count of Second Degree Arson and one count Insurance Fraud (defraud the insurer). Other charges are pending.

Around 3:30 a.m. on August 13, 2006 units from the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service responded to a house fire at 23831 Ridge Road, near Damascus. First arriving firefighters encountered a two-story single family house well involved in fire. Additional units were called to the scene. There were no injuries reported, however damage was significant.

At the time an initial investigation revealed discrepancies in the homeowner's statement regarding the contents of the home. The cause and origin of the fire were suspicious and the fire appeared to have been intentionally set. Montgomery County Fire and Explosive Investigators collaborated with a private investigator working for the insured and came to the same conclusion.

For the past year, Montgomery County Fire and Explosive Investigators gathered information from various Insurance companies, including Lloyds of London, as well as Allegheny Power, Montgomery County Housing Office and Permitting Services, and e-mail and phone records. Local Fire and Explosive Investigators were assisted by inspectors from Montgomery County Fire Code Enforcement and the Department of Housing and Community Affairs, and detectives from the Charleston, West Virginia Police Department.

Fire and Explosive Investigators believe Mr. Rao-Ippili set his house on fire for purposes to collect insurance money. It is believed that he poured an ignitable liquid on the first floor of the house several days prior to August 13, 2006 and returned early that morning and started the fire. In the process he received some 'flash' burns. At the time he explained that he was burned lighting a BBQ grill. He was treated at a local hospital.

After questioning, today, September 15, 2007, he was arrested and charged. He was being processed for detention at the Montgomery County Central Processing Unit, in Rockville.

A team of Montgomery County Fire and Explosive Investigators worked on the case. It should be noted that early on that date, August 13, 2006, Fire and Explosive Investigators were also busy arresting several youths for setting numerous fires in Takoma Park.

Montgomery County Fire Chief Tom Carr says, "The collective work of this team of investigators, inspectors and detectives is to be commended. Not only is the responsible person being held accountable for his actions, his detention also means the community is safer." Chief Carr adds "Each year, arson causes millions of dollars in losses to individuals, insurers, and the local government. These losses affect everyone. The worst consequences, however, are not financial, but personal. These fires have affected the entire community. Arson can also be dangerous crime to a victim, to the fire setter, to fire fighters and to the community."