U.S. Department of Justice
United States Attorney
Northern District of Georgia
For Immediate Release
January 5, 2010
Sally Quillian Yates, Acting United States Attorney
Contact: Patrick Crosby
(404) 581-6160 (fax)
Arsonists Who Set Fire to Adult Club Sentenced to Prison
Defendants Worked for a Competing Adult Club
ATLANTA, GA - BOYD SMITH, 41, of Atlanta, Georgia; SANDEO PABLO
DYSON, 46, of Gainesville, Georgia; and HOWARD “BIT” THROWER, 52, of
Alpharetta, Georgia, were sentenced today by Chief District Court Judge Julie E. Carnes
relating to a conspiracy to burn down Club Onyx, an adult entertainment establishment
in Atlanta, just after New Year’s Day 2007.
Acting United States Attorney Sally Q. Yates said, “These prison terms bring to a
close a successful arson investigation involving local and federal authorities. 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.”
Setting afire a rival business to gain a competitive edge is not only a threat to free
enterprise; it is a crime of violence, said Special Agent in Charge Gregory Gant of the
Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in Atlanta. Every time an arsonist
strikes a match, the loss of human life is a distinct possibility. ATF's arson enforcement
efforts are directed toward preventing arson, providing effective post-incident response,
and safeguarding our community from the impact of arson.
SMITH was sentenced to 5 years in prison to be followed by 3 years of supervised
release. DYSON was sentenced to 5 years in prison to be followed by 3 years of
supervised release. THROWER was sentenced to 3 years in prison to be followed by 3
years of supervised release.
According to Acting United States Attorney Yates and evidence presented in
court: The investigation of this case began on January 2, 2007, when the City of Atlanta
Fire Department and agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and
Explosives (ATF) responded to a fire at Club Onyx, an adult entertainment club at 1888
Cheshire Bridge Road in Atlanta. An internal surveillance system that was not destroyed
by the blaze showed a male figure moving about the club after it had been locked and
alarmed by management. This individual can be seen starting the fire and then hurrying
beyond the range of the cameras and out of the building. The owners of Club Onyx spent
nearly $1 million to rebuild the facility and had to keep the club shuttered for over six
For many months, investigators were unable to develop any leads on the arson. A
break in the case occurred in August and September, 2007, when agents from the ATF
and the FBI learned that THROWER was involved in the arson. From that lead, agents
eventually determined that THROWER, who was a senior manager at Platinum 21, had
conspired with SMITH, also a manager, and DYSON, head of security at Platinum 21, to
burn Club Onyx. Club Onyx had recently begun to compete with Platinum 21. With
revenues and profits collapsing, THROWER, SMITH, and DYSON decided that they
must shut Onyx down. After discussing a variety of less extreme options, the
conspirators settled on the arson plan in December 2006.
DYSON was paid $5,000 by SMITH and THROWER to do the burn, which he
executed on January 2, 2007, just after the last employees had left the building. The night
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.
DYSON pled guilty on April 24, 2008. THROWER pled guilty on January 29,
2009. SMITH went to trial and was found guilty by a jury on February 25, 2009.
DYSON and THROWER both testified at SMITHs trial, as did several other Platinum 21
This case was investigated by Special Agents of the ATF and the FBI. Assistance
has also been provided in this case by the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Division and
the Atlanta Fire Department.
Assistant United States Attorneys Zahra S. Karinshak and Robert C.I. McBurney
are prosecuting the case.
For further information please contact Sally Q. Yates, Acting United States
Attorney, or Charysse L. Alexander, Executive Assistant United States Attorney, through
Patrick Crosby, Public Affairs Officer, U.S. Attorney's Office, at (404) 581-6016. The
Internet address for the HomePage for the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District
of Georgia is www.usdoj.gov/usao/gan.