PLAQUEMINE — Three men arrested Friday are accused of setting seven fires that, while causing no injuries, grew increasingly dangerous in the small Iberville Parish community of Bayou Goula.
The situation, which unfolded over six months last year, involved two feuding factions, "one group of friends that doesn't like another group of friends," Iberville Parish Sheriff's Chief Deputy Stephen Engolio said.
Tyriek "Reko" Rivers, 19, Donald "Dee Rayy" Vondo, 19, and Jerrimiah "Supa" Henderson, 21, were booked into the Iberville Parish jail, each on two counts of aggravated arson, three counts of simple arson and one count of "patterns of criminal street gang activity," the State Fire Marshals Office, which made the arrests, said in a statement.
The arrests were made following an investigation in collaboration with the Iberville Parish Sheriff's Office and Iberville Parish Fire Department, the State Fire Marshal's Office said.
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Ashley Rodrigue, public affairs officer for the State Fire Marshal's Office, said the fires were set by one set of friends, in a loosely defined group called the BMM (Big Money Mafia), as retaliatory acts against the members of another group, called the 1900 Gang, and their relatives.
It's not clear what the particular incident was that led to the retaliatory string of fires, which began in February of 2018 with a vehicle fire and ended in August of 2018 with fires at trailer homes where people were home at the time, Rodrigue said.
All of the fires were set in the early morning hours, between 3 a.m. to 5 a.m. Five of the fires were set at addresses on La. 405 and two were on Point Street, the State Fire Marshal's Office said.
On Aug. 19, 2018, a fire was set shortly before 3 a.m. at a trailer home on Point Street where a woman who was sleeping was awakened by her fire alarm and able to get out; her seven children happened to be away that night, Rodrigue said. Caught early, the fire caused only minor damage to the trailer.
"The origin of the fire was on the exterior of the trailer, underneath the master bedroom where the resident would have been sleeping, but she was sleeping on the sofa," Rodrigue said.
Another fire that broke out shortly before 3 a.m. on Aug. 24, 2018, was set at a trailer home on La. 405 where a mother and her five children were sleeping, Rodrigue said.
A loud noise outside woke the mother, who smelled smoke and was able to get her family out, Rodrigue said. Damage to the trailer was minor.
A fire set earlier that same month, on August 3, 2018, at about 3:30 a.m., destroyed an unoccupied brick home on La. 405, Rodrigue said.
Other fires included two vehicle fires in July 2018, both on La. 405, and a shed/outdoor kitchen set on fire, also in July.
Rodrigue said the State Fire Marshal's Office was able to get a break in the case with an anonymous tip.
"Additional arrests and charges are possible in this case," she said.
Anyone with information about the case is asked to call the State Fire Marshal's Office's Arson Hotline at 1-800-256-5452 or go online to fill out the "hot tip" form at LASFM.org.