Updated 07/19/2012 09:37 PM
New FBI billboards advertises reward for arson information
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BUFFALO, N.Y. — The FBI is once again asking for information about the fires that burned down a home on Mackinaw Street in 2011.
"We have various parts of information that lead us to believe there may have been a hate motivation but we can't confirm that definitively at this point. That's why we're still conducting the investigation," Special Agent in Charge Chris Piehota said.
This time the agency is advertising a $10,000 reward for information on electronic billboards. They've gone up all around the city of Buffalo.
"What we're looking for is clarifying information that may confirm or corroborate what we already know or dispel areas that we may have doubt," Piehota said.
The homeowners were a refugee family from the Congo and neighbors say they do believe the arsons were a hate crime.
"Every neighborhood, there's racist people," Shannon Padilla said.
She said she's offended by people who generalize her neighborhood as a racist place. She said the real problem is slum lords renting to a bad element.
"We have drug dealers down here. We've got a bunch of crackheads. My husband's car got broken into last Thursday," Padilla said. "I don't think that was a racist thing. I just think it was crackheads."
Still, she said the FBI probably won't get much help from residents of the Old First Ward.
"This neighborhood is hush-hush," she said. "We all know each other so no one's going to snitch."
But this strategy has been successful for the agency since it started using billboards in 2007.
"The FBI has been able to resolve 49 investigations as a direct result of billboard tips," Piehota said.
One person has already been arrested but agents believe he had help.
The billboards will stay up for about a week.