At least that's what federal investigators claim in court papers filed against a Florida man suspected in the June attacks.
Indicted Thursday by a federal grand jury, convicted extortionist Sang Ngoc Ung is suspected of torching one south Beacon Hill home and placing a gasoline bomb at another. According to charging papers, Ung was hoping to collect on a $20,000 loan he'd made to a Seattle family which had hoped to smuggle another member into the United States from China.
At 3 a.m. on June 10, a South Cloverdale Street home burst into flames as four people slept inside. They escaped, but the house was badly damaged in the apparent arson.
Speaking with police, the homeowner said she believed Ung had set the fire and that her brother may also have been targeted.
Police arrived at her brother's home to find a gasoline bomb with a crude fuse. Had the fuse burned as designed, the bomb would have ignited a car parked in the home's driveway, which likely would have burned the home as well.
Writing the court, a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives special agent said Ung's fingerprint was found on the bomb. Cell phone records are alleged to have tied him to the crime as well.
Recounting statements given by the intended victims, the agent said Ung had loaned them $20,000 about 10 years before so they could pay to have a relative brought into the United States. The relative was to work for Ung in Florida until the debt was repaid.
The purported victims told investigators they paid $20,000 to a woman known only as "Fat Lady Lan," who they expected would arrange a fake marriage to facilitate the immigration. Instead, "Fat Lady Lan" took the money and disappeared.
Only recently did Ung begin demanding the Seattle family repay the missing money. Ung met with the debtors on several occasions the year before, demanding payment.
"During these meetings, Ung stated that if the money was not repaid, he would carry out threats of violence," the ATF agent told the court. Ung threatened, the agent continued, that "hands would be cut off, legs would be crippled, and (the woman's) house would be set on fire."
The family made an initial payment of $4,000 to Ung, but had not repaid the debt when he arrived in Seattle in June. Witnesses said Ung, driving a gold Lexus sedan, visited both homes hours before the fires started.
According to charging papers, Ung drove directly to California following the fires. He was arrested July 8 after returning to Washington.
Ung admitted he was attempting to collect a debt, which he said the family owed him "no matter what," the ATF agent said in court papers. He denied starting the fire or building the surviving bomb.
According to court records, Ung was convicted of extortion in 1993 while living in south Florida. Authorities claim he was carrying a pistol when he was arrested; as a convicted felon, Ung isn't allowed to have access to firearms.
On Thursday, a federal grand jury in Seattle returned a two-count indictment against Ung, charging him with unlawful bomb possession and unlawful gun possession. He remains in federal custody.