Martin Pang, the man responsible for setting 1995 warehouse blaze that killed four Seattle firefighters, could be facing more prison time after a multi-agency investigation caught Pang working from behind bars to defraud and steal the identities of firefighters, police officers and witnesses involved in his decades-old case.
In March, the Washington State Department of Corrections (DOC) learned that Pang—currently serving a 35-year-sentence at the Monroe Correctional Complex—was working with a man on the outside to put together an elaborate fraud scheme.
Pang and his accomplice planned to set up credit accounts in the names of firefighters, police officers, and witnesses involved in Pang’s 1995 conviction for manslaughter and funnel money from those accounts into offshore bank accounts. Pang and his accomplice also intended to siphon money from the bank accounts of the Tulalip Casino, where Pang’s accomplice previously worked. Pang and his co-conspirator believed they would rake in tens of millions of dollars from their scheme.
DOC authorities partnered with the Seattle Police Department’s Major Crimes Task Force (MCTF), Federal Bureau of Investigation, Snohomish Regional Drug and Gang Task Force, and began working to dismantle Pang’s plan.
“Pang saw this as an opportunity to make a ton of money, so he had a nest egg when he got out of prison,” says SPD MCTF detective Todd Jakobsen, who assisted in investigating the case.
Upon his release from prison in 2018, Pang had planned to take his ill-gotten nest egg back to Brazil, where he previously fled while under investigation in 1995.
Before Pang and his accomplice, Charles McClain, went through with their plan, an undercover detective was able to infiltrate their crime ring. The detective met with McClain, who gave the detective checks, social security information, and the IDs of planned fraud targets. During the investigation, Pang also provided a police source with the names and social security numbers of key witnesses in his 1995 case. “He wanted to make a bunch of money and already had their information from court documents,” Det. Jakobsen says. “This was a crime of opportunity.”
Authorities arrested McClain and searched Pang’s prison cell, where they found a list of the names and social security numbers of 20 witnesses in Pang’s 1995 arson case and found evidence he had recently accessed records containing the personal information of firefighters involved in his case through his attorney.
Authorities were able to break up the fraud scheme before Pang was able to steal any of his victims’ identities, or any money from the Tulalip Casino. No casino customers were targeted in the scheme.
Police have forwarded the case to the Snohomish County Prosecutor’s Office for charges.
If convicted on these new charges, Pang could lose significant “good behavior time” he has accumulated while serving his current sentence, and could also face another five years in prison. Pang is currently scheduled for release from prison in 2018.