For Immediate Release
Three Detained on Federal Charges in Alleged Arson-for-Hire Scheme
PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Three individuals have been charged in federal court in Providence and are detained for allegedly conspiring and setting fire to an occupied multi-family dwelling in Providence in an alleged arson-for-profit scheme, announced United States Attorney Peter F. Neronha; Daniel J. Kumor, Special Agent in Charge of the Boston Field Division of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF); and Providence Public Safety Commissioner Steven M. Paré.
A federal indictment returned today charges Abraham Kerkula, 20, of Providence, and Gbabia Kollie, 27, of Johnston City, Tenn., with one count each of conspiracy to commit arson and arson affecting interstate commerce. A third defendant, Nakele Freeman, 19, of Providence, is detained in federal custody on an information filed with the court on December 9, 2013, charging him with one count each of conspiracy to commit arson and arson affecting interstate commerce. It is alleged that the three conspired and set fire to an occupied dwelling at 31-33 Ida Street in Providence, in the early morning hours of November 2, 2013.
Freeman and Kerkula were arrested on federal criminal complaints on November 15, 2013, and ordered detained by U.S. District Court Magistrate Judge Lincoln D. Almond. Gbabia Kollie, who was removed from an outbound international flight leaving Atlanta for Liberia and arrested by ATF agents on December 5, 2013, was ordered detained by a U.S. District Court Magistrate Judge in Atlanta. Kollie will be transported back to Rhode Island for prosecution.
According to court documents and information presented to the court, it is alleged that on November 1, 2013, Freeman asked Kerkula to give him a ride to a location where he, Freeman, was going to set fire to a building for “a lot of money.” Freeman and Kerkula allegedly traveled together to at least two retail outlets where Freeman allegedly purchased several items, including a five-gallon gasoline storage container and gloves. They allegedly also traveled together to a local supermarket where Freeman allegedly filled the storage container with gasoline.
According to court documents and information presented to the court, it is alleged that just after midnight, while Freeman was engaged in a series of telephone conversations with another individual, Kerkula and Freeman located and drove past the targeted property several times. A short time later, Kerkula allegedly drove back to the targeted property where Freeman allegedly removed the gasoline and other items from the vehicle and entered the property using keys he and Kerkula had retrieved earlier in the day.
According to court documents and information presented to the court, it is alleged that Freeman entered a vacant third floor apartment where he spread gasoline, and a fire ignited. Freeman fled the building and returned to the vehicle at a pre-determined location on a nearby side street. Once in the vehicle it is alleged that Freeman stated to Kerkula that the fire had not gone as planned.
According to court documents and information presented to the court, it is alleged that Kollie arranged with Freeman to set fire to building in return for a payment of $7,000. It is alleged that Kollie was the person with whom Freeman had several telephone conversations while in the vehicle with Kerkula.
The investigation into the circumstances leading up to the fire and into the fire by ATF and the Providence Fire Department’s Fire Inspection Office is continuing.
An indictment and a criminal complaint are merely allegations and are not evidence of guilt. A defendant is entitled to a fair trial in which it will be the government’s burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
Conspiracy to commit arson and arson affecting interstate commerce are punishable by a statutory penalties of up to 20 years in federal prison and a fine of up to $250,000.
The cases are being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney William J. Ferland.