The investigation into an arson at a Carmel business takes a strange twist. The people who originally reported it as a racist attack are the ones now facing felony charges.
Gugu Kaur, 21, spoke to Eyewitness News last November about a fire that shut down her family's business, Heidi's Brooklyn Deli at 1400 S. Guilford Ave. in Carmel, on October 31st. She called it a racially motivated hate crime, pointing out the graffiti the arsonist left behind.
"It says pretty much, 'go to your country.' Why were we the target?" she said at the time.
Now she and her father, 47-year-old Jasvir Dosanjh, are in custody, accused of arranging the arson themselves and even buying the gasoline used in the incident. Police believe their goal was to defraud their insurance company. Damage was estimated at $30,000.
"It is our belief that the intent was to do more damage," said Lt. Jeff Horner, Carmel Police Department.
Investigators believe 39-year-old Nirmal Thakur, an acquaintance of the owners, actually set the fire. When police arrested him, they said his hands and face were badly burned.
According to the probable cause affidavit, the deli owners would not take him to the hospital because of fear that he "would be caught." It says the owners took him to their house instead and that it was during that stay that the owner admitted "he was trying to burn his business down because he lost $200,000 and wanted out of the lease."
This isn't the only arson connected to these owners. According to the probable cause affidavit, the family also owned an ice cream shop in Fresno, California that was intentionally set on fire in 2005.
Investigators say they were careful not to jump to conclusions when they saw the graffiti.
"We did not want that to really cloud up the investigation and later on it was determined that it was definitely not a hate crime. It was basically stuff that the owners put there to divert some of the blame to somebody else, and try to mask what they were actually trying to accomplish," said Lt. Horner.
"I am shocked and appalled," said Becky Wilson, owner of the neighboring All About You Hair Salon. She calls it extremely selfish.
"They could have burnt the whole building, and my whole life is invested in my business and that would be gone and all my revenue would be gone and it would be really hard in today's environment to start over again. Then make it look like it was a hate crime like that really bothers me because we all live in an environment now of fear," she said.
The personal training studio right next door to the deli had to deal with smoke damage and slower traffic through their doors.
"We're grateful it wasn't worse than it was," said Gina Kroeker, Get in Shape for Women manager. "It's affected us. It affected the area."
Both Dosanjh and Kaur are being held by police in New Jersey pending their extradition back to Indiana.
Dosanjh and Kaur were taken into custody at Newark International Airport on several warrants, including B felony arson, B felony conspiracy to commit arson, C felony arson with intent to defraud and conspiracy to commit arson with intent to defraud.
Thakur faces a charge of B felony arson. He is being held at the Hamilton County Jail on a $70,000 bond.
At the time, the owners said neither the cash register nor the safe was touched. The only thing missing was the device that records surveillance video.