Arrests made in cafe arsons

MONTREAL — The Montreal police have arrest nine people in connection with a series of fires that caused damage to 18 businesses, including several Italian cafés.

Five of the people arrested appeared in court Thursday afternoon, facing a total of 48 charges including arson, mischief, armed robbery, illegal possession of prohibited firearms, conspiracy and possession of materials to commit arson.

Montreal police Inspector Bernard Lamothe described the men arrested as being associated with Montreal street gangs but said they are not necessarily members of such groups. Almost all of the people arrested are in their 20’s. Five are already behind bars as suspects in other violent crimes.

He said the multi-disciplinary team set up to investigate the fires will continue to work because 13 of the fires remain unsolved. He repeated that the portrait of what might be the motive behind the arson blazes remains a complex one.

According to the Montreal police, 18 arson fires occurred between Sept. 18, 2009 and January 24 in parts east and north of the Montreal Island.

Through a probe dubbed Project Arcane investigators believe they have solved who is behind five of the fires, which took place in St. Léonard, St. Michel and Rivière des Prairies. The fires took place at four cafés and a reception hall. Search warrants carried out Thursday morning turned up firearms and drugs..

One of the people arrested is a minor.

Previous to Thursday’s operation, only one other person had been arrested in connection with the fires and the charges he faces are related to only one of the fires. Mickendy Demosthene, 19, is scheduled to have a preliminary inquiry in his case on Aug. 30.

Lamothe said one of the people arrested Thursday is one of two men whose images were captured on video, taken by a security camera, that the Montreal police released recently in an attempt to identify suspects in one of the fires.

Among the people who appeared at the Montreal courthouse Thursday afternoon was Sebastien Calixte, 22, a man who recently tried to claim he murdered a 25-year-old man in St. Léonard, while another person was on trial for the slaying. The jury apparently didn’t believe Calixte because they still convicted Whoody Aristilde of the murder.

Calixte was ordered to be held in custody because he faces charges in other cases.

Jean-Sebastien Jacques, 24, will also remain in custody because of his criminal record.

Two other men, Louis Cyr, 24, of Montreal North, and Luckenson Desgraves, 25, of St. Jean sur Richelieu, were released on conditions, including that they not communicate with known members of street gangs.

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