QUEENSBURY — Andrew Ratto has long wondered whether the luxury Bentley sedan in the bay of his auto repair business, and potentially one of its owners, were involved with the suspicious July 2013 fire that destroyed the Queensbury auto shop.
The weekend limousine crash in Schoharie that killed 20 people involved the company that is owned by the owner of that Bentley. It has prompted Ratto to ask police to take another look at the blaze that destroyed his business, Ridge Road Car Care.
No one was arrested for the July 31, 2013 blaze that destroyed the repair shop and at least 14 vehicles in and around the shop.
One of the vehicles was a 2005 Bentley sedan owned by Shahed Hussain, the felon from Wilton who also owns Prestige Limousine, whose company’s vehicle crashed Saturday in Schoharie, killing its driver, 17 passengers and two bystanders.
Ratto said the Bentley had been towed in to his shop with transmission problems, and the day before the fire, Hussain had been told that the vehicle needed about $15,000 in repairs for what appeared to be intentional damage to a transmission cooler line, repairs that would not be covered under warranty.
The luxury car was in the middle of the garage, in the area where the fire was believed to have started, and Ratto said he has always questioned why the front driver’s side door of the Bentley was found open after the fire. He said he did not believe it could open during the fire, nor could it have been opened afterward. It was closed when he was in the shop the night before the fire.
“State fire investigators determined the fire started in the middle of the shop, and the (Warren County) Sheriff’s Office concluded they believed someone had been in the shop,” Ratto said.
After the fire, Hussain collected a $39,000 insurance settlement for the destroyed Bentley, Ratto said. But Hussain’s insurance company then filed a claim seeking $70,000 from Ratto’s insurance carrier.
Ratto later learned that Hussain had been involved as an informant in a high-profile terror plot that stemmed from fraud-related convictions in the Albany area, and his sons had fraud-related arrests as well. One of the sons was the frequent driver of the Bentley, posing with it on social media.
That prompted some questions on Ratto’s part, but he said police seemed reluctant to explore that angle.
Warren County sheriff’s Lt. Steve Stockdale said sheriff’s officers would look into any information that Ratto provides, although the five-year statute of limitations to prosecute any arson case resulting from the fire passed this summer. There is a longer statute of limitations for some insurance fraud charges, though.