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Business operator indicted for 2011 building blast

WARREN — After three years, Shawn Martin finally has a new house and a new driveway. He still doesn’t have a lawn.

He doesn’t have his health. He said he suffered a closed-head injury in the blast that obliterated an industrial laundry across the street in 2011. He doesn’t have a job. Martin said he lost that because of his resulting disability.

A federal grand jury believes it has the man responsible for causing the devastating explosion that rocked the neighborhood near Hoover and Stephens. 

Alexandros Yfantidis, 73, of Clinton Township, was named in a six-count federal indictment filed May 15 in U.S. District Court in Detroit. The indictment alleged Yfantidis operated Best Textile Services on Hoover south of Stephens and that he hatched a plan to destroy the building for insurance money. The charges leveled against him included arson, multiple counts of fraud, using a fire to commit a felony and obstruction of justice.

Attorney David Steingold will represent Yfantidis and said his client is not guilty.

“People should not rush to judgment based on what they may read in the paper,” Steingold said. “They should wait for the proofs to come out in court, and when it’s all said and done, and they’ve heard all the proofs and the lack of proofs, then and only then are people in a position to say whether my client did something wrong or not.

“I’m confident that the proofs will not show that he did anything wrong,” Steingold said. “He’s a good, honest man that’s not responsible for what happened.”

The explosion that destroyed the business on May 4, 2011 caused damage to the surrounding neighborhood that took months or, in some cases, years to repair. The force of the blast showered the area in debris, shook nearby homes and garages from their foundations, smashed windows, and damaged roofs and walls within a 1/4-mile radius.

A total of 50 homes and businesses on Hoover, Avondale, Stephens and Belmont were affected. No one was killed.

Debris lingered at the site of the explosion for months after investigators with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives quickly confirmed they were investigating an act of arson.

No specific evidence found by investigators has been released.

Martin, 45, said he’s lived on his property directly across the street from Best Textile for 18 years. He said he was jolted from the couch the night the blast destroyed his house.

“I’ve been out of work since. I’m disabled now,” Martin said.

While his own insurance paid to restore his property, he said attorneys told him that the owner of the business would be “uncollectable” in a lawsuit over the costs of his injuries and lost wages. He said state law makes it impossible to go after the insurance carrier of a building destroyed in an alleged criminal act.

More than three years after the blast, the neighborhood is slowly coming back.

“I don’t know if it will ever be back to normal,” Martin said. “It won’t be for me with my injuries.”

The case against Yfantidis was assigned to U.S. District Court Judge Stephen J. Murphy.

According to federal court records, Yfantidis remained free on a $10,000 unsecured bond after his arraignment May 27. He faces up to 30 years in prison and fines of $1 million or more if convicted.