Charges filed in Whitestone fire

November 7, 2008 2:42:03 PM PST
A 42-year-old Whitestone man has been charged with starting a devastating fire last weekend. Michael Trantel of 15-29 159th Street is charged with arson, reckless endangerment and burglary after allegedly breaking into a diner to steal cigarettes and then setting a fire that virtually destroyed the neighborhood eatery.

"The fire could easily have caused serious injuries or death to firefighters charged with fighting the blaze or any people who may have been inside or around the building," Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown said.

Trantel allegedly stole some cigarettes and a lighter after breaking into the Lollipop Diner located at 153-31 Cross Island Parkway North in Whitestione.

Investigators said Trantel then set a bag of Halloween candy on fire using the stolen lighter. The diner was closed for business at the time of the fire.

According to court papers, Trantel first approached a security guard at the diner and asked for a cigarette, but the guard would not give him one. He then allegedly saw a pack in the diner so he kicked in the window and grabbed a pack of cigarettes and a green lighter. He then allegedly used the lighter to set fire to a bag of Halloween candy that was in a cardboard box, took some more cigarettes, and then left the same way he had entered.

Surveillance video of the diner shows Trantel outside the diner, as well as entering from the front of the diner and exiting from the rear, according to court papers.

If convicted, Trantel faces up to 15 years in prison. He was arraigned on Friday and ordered the defendant held without bail. His next court date is November 25, 2008.

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