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Firefighter ‘Chasers’ Exploit Traumatized Homeowners in a Shocking Twist

In the chaotic aftermath of a blazing fire, amidst the brave firefighters rushing towards the flames, there exists a hidden industry that preys upon the vulnerability of devastated homeowners seeking emergency mitigation services. For Jatiek Smith, a recently released ex-convict, plunging into this high-adrenaline and lucrative occupation seemed like a golden opportunity. He eagerly pursued fires all across Brooklyn, Queens, and Staten Island in 2019.

Smith, armed with his boss’s expert advice, quickly learned how to identify homeowners in distress amid the crowds outside their burning dwellings. His approach was simple but effective – first, ensure everyone made it out safely, then exhibit genuine concern while maintaining a professional demeanor. Sporting the recognizable red uniform bearing the name of his employer, First Response, he projected an image of competence and importance. Smith’s ultimate objective was to secure homeowner sign-offs on retainers, assuring them that their insurance would cover the costs of the mitigation services.

However, prosecutors now charge that Smith possessed more than just persuasive skills – he utilized an arsenal of intimidation and fear to reshape the emergency mitigation industry in New York. To aid him in his manipulative endeavors, Smith enlisted the help of his former associates: members of the notorious street gang, the Bloods. Together, they allegedly strong-armed homeowners to sign contracts under duress.

One such victim, known as Carmen, recounts her harrowing encounter with Smith’s crew. Upon receiving the distressing call that one of her apartments was engulfed in flames, she hurried to the scene, as any concerned landlord would. However, Carmen found herself surrounded by several men donning matching First Response shirts, including Jatiek Smith. They informed her that their role was to clear debris, ventilate, and seal damaged properties. In the midst of her trauma, Carmen signed with them, convinced they would handle everything efficiently.

Sadly, Carmen soon discovered the true extent of their negligence. They needlessly gutted her apartment, claiming the smoke had permeated even the walls. The reconstruction was equally botched, with insulation left uninstalled and an unfortunate accident leading to a worker suing her for damages. Carmen aptly compares the modus operandi of Smith and his colleagues to ambulance chasers, but with a twisted focus on fire incidents.

The indictment and court documents in federal court in New York reveal the alarming extent to which First Response operated with impunity. Although Carmen endured a distressing ordeal, it is worth noting that she was spared physical harm, threats, or assault. Jatiek Smith, born in 1984, boasts a lengthy rap sheet, including convictions for assault, harassment, weapons possession, and drug charges. He was hired by First Response after his release from prison for a drug-related conviction. Prosecutors allege that soon after joining the company in October 2019, Smith enlisted fellow Bloods members, teaching them to secure signatures amid the chaos of fire-ravaged properties by any means necessary.

Such brazen tactics became the norm for the company’s employees. In May 2020, they violently attacked the owner of a rival firm in his own storage facility, unabashedly photographing the aftermath. Smith even kept a picture of the bloodied victim on his phone as a twisted trophy, showcasing their ruthless dominance.

The case against First Response highlights a shocking abuse of trust in the emergency mitigation industry. Homeowners grappling with the aftermath of devastating fires deserve genuine support and impeccable services, not exploitation at the hands of opportunistic individuals. Authorities must address these concerns urgently and ensure safeguards are put in place to protect vulnerable victims.

Author: CrimeDoor


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