Three face prison sentences for 2007 arson

Three Metro Atlanta men face federal prison sentences for their roles in a January 2007 fire at Club Onyx, an adult entertainment establishment that authorities say was a rival club of where the trio worked.

Chief District Court Judge Julie E. Carnes sentenced Boyd Smith, 41, of Atlanta, to five years in prison followed by three years of supervised release; Sandeo Pablo Dyson, 46, of Gainesville, to five years in prison followed by three years of supervised release; and Howard “Bit” Thrower, 52, of Alpharetta, to three years in prison followed by three years of supervised release.

“Setting afire a rival business to gain a competitive edge is not only a threat to free enterprise; it is a crime of violence,” Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives Special Agent in Charge Gregory Gant said in a news release. “Every time an arsonist strikes a match, the loss of human life is a distinct possibility.”

Prosecutors say Thrower was a senior manager at Platinum 21, a rival of Club Onyx, conspired with Smith, also a manager at Platinum 21, and Dyson, head of security at Platinum 21, to shut down Club Onyx. Authorities say Smith and Thrower paid Dyson $5,000 to “do the burn.” The day before the fire, Dyson “scaled the outside of Club Onyx and diverted the external security cameras so that they would not record his exit after the fire was started,” prosecutors said.

“These prison terms bring to a close a successful arson investigation involving local and federal authorities,” Acting United States Attorney Sally Q. Yates said in a news release. “While thankfully no one was hurt during the fire and its aftermath, the defendants in this case, in their senseless pursuit of financial gain, put the lives of innocent civilians and our brave firefighters at risk.”

Dyson and Thrower pleaded guilty while Smith was convicted by a jury; Dyson and Thrower testified at Smith’s trial. The fire cost more than $1 million in damage, authorities said.

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