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McKees Rocks arson victim says he'll match reward

| Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2012, 12:04 a.m.

The owner of a McKees Rocks rug business set on fire in October said he would match the $5,000 reward investigators offered Monday for information leading to arrest of the culprit.

“I want to catch whoever did that,” said Ken Ashtari, owner of Linder's Fine Furnishings and Rugs on Yunker Street. “I want to catch them. The sooner the better.”

No one was hurt in the Oct. 10 fire that caused about $2 million worth of damage, according to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The agency is investigating the fire along with Allegheny County police and the county Fire Marshal's Office.

The words “Iran” and “terrorist” were spray painted on the building several days before the fire. Investigators from the fire marshal's office have determined someone set the fire, which appeared to have started inside the building. ATF Agent Steven Bartholomew wouldn't say whether investigators believe the arson is a hate crime.

“We are stunned,” Ashtari said. “I've been here since 1989, and I've never seen anything like that happen. All of a sudden, for this to happen, it was stunning.”

Ashtari, who is from Iran, bought the business from his partner eight years ago. He continued selling furniture at a building he owns across the street, and fixed up a showroom in that building for the rugs about two weeks ago. He said customers called, emailed and stopped in to show support.

“I'm not going to go anywhere,” Ashtari said. “I'm not going to give up.”

The ATF is offering reward money for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person responsible for the fire. Anyone with information is asked to call the hotline 1-888-ATF-FIRE (1-888-283-3473) or email ATFTips@atf.gov.

Margaret Harding is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-380-8519 or mharding@tribweb.com.

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