The Real Deal Chicago

Admitted arsonist ordered to pay $123M for fire that destroyed suburban warehouse

The former RoomPlace furniture warehouse employee burned down the 325K sf facility
By John O’Brien | November 23, 2018 03:00PM

Furniture warehouse fire in Woodridge. (Credit abc7 Chicago)

The federal government is ordering a man to pay $122.6 million for setting fire to a furniture warehouse in Woodridge.

The government this month filed a lien in that amount against Ruben Antonio Ochoa Cruz, who pleaded guilty to intentionally setting fire to the RoomPlace warehouse in a dispute with his boss over vacation time.

The four-alarm blaze burned the 325,000-square-foot industrial building to the ground, destroying the inventory of furniture and equipment belonging to RoomPlace and a number of delivery companies at the building, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Cruz is serving a six-year sentence in federal prison for the crime; it is unlikely he can repay the amount ordered. But the government could take any proceeds he makes from the sale of assets.

On April 21, 2016, Cruz’s boss told him he would be docked vacation time to cover two days he didn’t show up for work, though Cruz insisted he had been at work, according to the Tribune.

When his supervisor agreed to review security video to see if he had shown up for work, Cruz went into the warehouse, raised himself in a forklift, set fire to a piece of paper and dropped it on shelves full of furniture.