SEATTLE (AP) _ A man who set fire to a crowded Seattle nightclub just after midnight on New Year's Eve has pleaded guilty to a federal arson charge.

U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan says 30-year-old Musab Mohammed Masmari put more than 700 people at risk when he poured gasoline in a stairwell at Neighbors, a gay nightclub, and lit it.

Masmari, formerly of Bellevue, was identified through surveillance video and was arrested a month after the arson as he prepared to leave the country.

He was originally charged in state court, but federal prosecutors took the case because he faces a minimum of five years _ more than double what he faced under state law.

Federal prosecutors haven't discussed a potential motive for the arson, but Masmari drew police attention several times over the past year for erratic behavior, including assaults and refusing to stop painting a railing at his apartment building.

He is due to be sentenced in July.