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Prosecutors: Diner owner paid friend to burn it down

February 16, 2018

BERLIN, N.J. (AP) — Prosecutors say a New Jersey diner owner hired his friend to burn it down last month so he could collect on an insurance claim.

Thomas Giannisis, a 51-year-old Bellmawr resident who owned the Country Town Diner in Berlin, and 56-year-old Robert Zbikowski, of Mount Holly, are charged with arson for hire and conspiracy to commit arson. Zbikowski is also charged with aggravated arson and creating or risking widespread injury or damage, while Giannisis is also charged with conspiracy to create or risk widespread injury or damage.

The diner was destroyed in the Jan. 10 blaze. But no injuries were reported.

Investigators say the fire started on the second floor, but didn’t disclose what Zbikowski allegedly used to set it.

It wasn’t known Friday if either man has retained an attorney.

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