Employee charged with arson in furniture warehouse fire

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WOODRIDGE, Ill. -- An employee has been charged with arson in the massive warehouse fire in the suburbs earlier this month.

20-year-old Ruben Ochoa Cruz is facing federal arson charges.

More than 325,000-square feet of warehouse space is in ruins.  The RoomPlace estimates the damage is well into the million dollars.

The RoomPlace CEO released a statement saying he was deeply disturbed one of his employees was charged with setting the fire.

Last Thursday, 30 fire departments battled a nearly out of control fire in Woodridge for more than seven hours.

In documents filed in federal court today, prosecutors say Ochoa-Cruz, of Joilet, was confronted by his supervisors for not showing up to work and told he would be docked two days’ vacation.  A fork lift operator at the warehouse Ochoa-Cruz then “became upset during the meeting and heated argument ensued.”  He said his co-workers were out to get him. Not long after he was told to go back to work, the fire alarms started going off.

The 65 employees inside were able to get out without injuries.  Despite the damage ATF agents were able to find electronic records to pin Ochoa-Cruz to the aisle where the fire started.

When confronted with the evidence, federal court papers say Ochoa-Cruz admitted to  using a lighter to light a packaging slip on fire.  He told agents he “lit the fire in order to get rid of the tension or stress to calm him down.”

If convicted, Ochoa-Cruz could be looking at 5 -20 years in prison.  He is in custody tonight and due in court in May.