Two brothers admitted in court Thursday to setting fire to their hookah lounge as they struggled with business losses, causing more than $20 million in damages to a retail block in Philadelphia’s historic area.
Federal prosecutors say 32-year-old Imad Dawara, of Swarthmore, and 40-year-old Bahaa Dawara, of Woodlyn, had taken out $750,000 in insurance weeks before the blaze.
The February 2018 fire burned for nine hours and left the block of restaurants, retail stores and apartments in Old City shuttered for months. Approximately 160 people were displaced, and a few of the businesses never reopened.
The Dawaras, who used gasoline to start the blaze, would serve nine years in prison and pay $22 million in restitution under the terms of the plea agreements entered Thursday. Their sentencing is set for June.
U.S. District Judge Juan Sanchez expressed concern about their ability to pay such a “staggering” sum, but the brothers insisted they could, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported. The first $500,000 payment was due Thursday.
Defense attorney Stephen Patrizio said some of the payment would come from the sale of Imad Dawara’s suburban home, the newspaper said.
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