Town of Newburgh restaurant owner convicted of arson

Posted 9/28/22

Orange County District Attorney David M. Hoovler announced that on Monday, September 26, Zef Gjurashaj, 60, of Newburgh, was convicted after jury trial in the Orange County Court of all counts …

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Town of Newburgh restaurant owner convicted of arson

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Orange County District Attorney David M. Hoovler announced that on Monday, September 26, Zef Gjurashaj, 60, of Newburgh, was convicted after jury trial in the Orange County Court of all counts considered by the jury, including Arson in the First Degree, Conspiracy in the Second Degree, two counts of Reckless Endangerment in the First Degree, Insurance Fraud in the Second Degree and Tax Fraud in the Fifth Degree. Gjurashaj faces a sentence of 25 years to life in state prison on the Arson conviction when he is sentenced on December 19.

Prior to the trial, Gjurashaj’s co-defendant, Marina Gjurashaj, 38, of Yonkers, who is the wife of his nephew, pled guilty to Arson in the Third Degree and Conspiracy in the Fourth Degree for her role in setting the fire. As part of her plea agreement, Marina testified against Zef at trial.

At the trial, prosecutors argued that the defendants conspired to intentionally burn down Andiamo’s Restaurant, which was located at 5025 Route 9W in the Town of Newburgh, in September of 2017. Prosecutors argued that Zef, who operated the restaurant business in the fall of 2017, knew that the business was in a steep financial decline and decided to burn the business for insurance purposes.

He instructed Marina how to start the fire and removed a plug from a propane line in the kitchen, which allowed for the free flow of propane into the room once the valve was turned. The investigation revealed that on September 6, 2017, at the direction of Zef, Marina intentionally set fire to the building for the financial benefit of her “uncle” by spraying an ignitable liquid on the floor of the kitchen, opening the valve to the propane line and lighting the liquid. The subsequent fire was of such ferocity that in addition to decimating the building, it put the first responding firefighters, as well as Zef Gjurashaj’s wife, who was present at the time of the fire, at grave risk.

Prosecutors further argued that Zef presented to his insurance company a fraudulent Proof of Loss seeking payment for damage caused by the fire. 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 investigation also revealed that Zef Gjurashaj underreported cash income from the restaurant as part of New York State tax filings.

Hoovler highly commended Counsel to the District Attorney Stewart Rosenwasser for his prosecution of the case, as well as Senior Assistant District Attorney Ryan Greenbaum, who assisted at trial.

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