North Bellmore firefighter faces arson charge

Matthew Greve, 25, of West Hempstead, was arrested Matthew Greve, 25, of West Hempstead, was arrested on charges of arson in connection with a May 19 incident that involved setting fire to another man's Jeep in North Bellmore, police said. (July 2, 2013) Photo Credit: NCPD

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A volunteer firefighter told police he had been drinking heavily and had been goaded on by his girlfriend on the night he set fire to another man's Jeep, according to court documents made public Wednesday.

Matthew Greve, 25, a West Hempstead resident and volunteer with the North Bellmore Fire Department, was released without bail at his arraignment Wednesday before Judge Colin O'Donnell in First District Court in Hempstead.

He pleaded not guilty to a charge of third-degree arson, a felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison. Prosecutors had asked for bail of $50,000.

Police and the district attorney's office declined to comment on the six weeks between the incident and the arrest.

Greve admitted to police that he committed the arson on May 19, "but I want to add that I was drinking heavily and I'm sorry for what happened," according to a statement written out for him by a detective on Tuesday and later submitted to the court.

The statement related how Greve was attending his department's installation dinner at the Huntington Hilton in Melville on May 18 when someone made advances toward his girlfriend, Jennifer, whose last name is not legible in the document

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Later in their hotel room, "she told me that I should of hit him . . . (and) she challenged me about the guy who hit on her," Greve said in the statement. Jennifer told him the man, James Riebl of North Bellmore, was an ex-boyfriend who she was angry with because "he was in and out of her life," the statement said.

She then showed Greve a map on her cellphone of where Riebl lived, the statement said.

Greve said in the statement that he went to the firehouse and took a firefighter's tool known as a Halligan bar and filled a water bottle with gasoline. He then went to Riebl's house on Dewey Avenue, where he found the victim's 1999 Jeep Cherokee parked, broke a vehicle window with the Halligan bar, poured gasoline on a seat inside the Jeep and set it ablaze.

Calls to the Riebl house Wednesday were not returned.

The North Bellmore Fire Department issued a statement saying it will "take steps internally to make certain that any firefighter charged with such an offense is suspended from membership pending the outcome of the criminal charges and disciplinary process."

Greve's attorney, Timothy Kilgannnon of Mineola, said outside court that he was still reviewing the details of the case, including why the detective, rather than his client, wrote out the alleged admission.

With John Valenti

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