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Man gets 10 years for setting fires in connection with ex-girlfriend

LAST UPDATED: 8:37 p.m. HST, Apr 5, 2013

A 47-year-old Moiliili man was sentenced in state court this morning to 10 years in prison for setting a series of fires in May 2011.

The Hawaii Paroling Authority will decide how much of the 10-year term Thomas Chong will have to spend behind bars before he is eligible for parole.

Chong pleaded guilty in January to seven counts of arson under a plea deal with the state.

The charges stem from him twice setting a car on fire and setting fire to four residences. The car belonged to a friend of his ex-girlfriend and the people who lived in the residences were connected to the ex-girlfriend.

Chong set the first fire to the car at a Makiki apartment building on May 10, 2011. After Honolulu firefighters put out the fire, which caused minimal damage, Chong went back and set the car on fire again using more accelerant. The second fire caused damage to a nearby hedge and two apartments. He also set fire to the front doorways of two apartments while the residents were sleeping.

Ten days later Chong set fires at two homes on Tantalus while residents were inside sleeping. Home surveillance video captured Chong setting the fires, one of which erupted into a large fireball.

Police arrested Chong for the Makiki fires but released him on May 25 after he posted $100,000 bail. When they arrested him two weeks later for the Tantalus fires, he still had burn marks on his face from the fireball.

His lawyer Michael Green said the residences where Chong set the fires were of people who had helped out the ex-girlfriend and given her a place to stay. 

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