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Seven boys arrested in theft, arson at aid center

Buffalo fire marshals have arrested seven boys, ages 11 to 16, in the burglary and $60,000 fire that disrupted several community food programs operating out of a Massachusetts Avenue not-for-profit center.

Six of the seven youths have been petitioned to Family Court on charges including arson, burglary, trespassing and possession of stolen property.

The 16-year-old, whose name wasn't released, has been charged as an adult with burglary, trespassing and possession of stolen property, authorities said.

The incident occurred at about 4 a.m. Aug. 8, when the youths broke into the Massachusetts Avenue Project at 382 Massachusetts.

They ransacked the building and stole several laptop computers, some keyboards, a TV set, some school supplies and fans. Then they're accused of using an accelerant to set the fire, in an attempt to cover up the burglary.

The arson caused an estimated $35,000 damage to the building and $25,000 to the contents. The fire forced the center to postpone some programs and scale back others.

"We had information who the kids were," said Fire Marshal Edwin Orta, who made the arrests with his partner, Brian Martinez. "We went to several schools in the area and came up with the names of the juveniles who were involved."

All seven youths live in or around the Massachusetts Avenue area.

Assisted by Detectives Nicole Jones and Gil Munoz of the police General Investigations Unit, Orta and Martinez recovered some of the stolen items from one youth's school locker and several others' homes.

Among the programs disrupted was one in which low-income small-business entrepreneurs prepare food they sell to local restaurants and an after-school and summer program that allows youths to grow fruits and vegetables and learn more about food, nutrition and entrepreneurship.

e-mail: gwarner@buffnews.com

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