PROVIDENCE, R.I. – An investigation by the Providence Fire Department Arson Squad, the Providence Police Department and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) into an early morning fire on July 23, 2014, that caused significant damage to an occupied three family tenement at 346 Admiral Street in Providence, has resulted in the arrest and detention of the building’s owner, Rony Metellus, 51, of Providence. It is alleged that Metellus set fire to the building in order to collect insurance payments.
Metellus, arrested on Thursday and held overnight in federal custody, made an initial appearance in U.S. District Court today on a charge of arson of a building used in interstate commerce. Metellus was ordered detained by U.S. District Court Magistrate Judge Patricia A. Sullivan.
The investigation into the circumstances surrounding the fire and the arrest of Rony Metellus is announced by United States Attorney Peter F. Neronha, Providence Public Safety Commissioner Steven M. Paré and Daniel J. Kumor, Special Agent in Charge of the Boston Field Division of ATF.
According to an affidavit in support of an arrest warrant for Metellus filed with the court, it is alleged that in the early morning hours of July 23, Providence firefighters were called to extinguish a fire in a three-story, wood frame, residential building at 346 Admiral Street. The building sustained heavy damage. Three adults and three children were living in a first floor apartment at the time of the fire. The second and third floors had recently been vacated.
According to the affidavit, an investigation by the Providence Fire Department Arson Squad determined that the cause of the fire was the result of an unknown person or persons intentionally igniting the fire with combustible materials.
According to the affidavit, surveillance video reviewed by investigators showed a vehicle similar to one owned by Rony Metellus allegedly pull up and park on Admiral Street in close proximity to his rental property. A person fitting Metellus’ description is seen in the video walking toward 346 Admiral Street and then returning to the vehicle eight minutes later, shortly before fire apparatus were called for a report of a fire at 346 Admiral Street. The video shows the vehicle was immediately turned around and driven from the area without the headlights turned on.
According to the affidavit, additional surveillance videos obtained from a property near the defendant’s residence allegedly show Rony Metellus leaving his house shortly before the fire is reported and then returning. A review of the video demonstrates that sufficient time passed to have allowed Metellus to have travelled to Admiral Street, started a fire and returned home. Another video allegedly shows a vehicle fitting the description of the defendant’s traveling on the same street on which he resides, at approximately the same time fire apparatus are responding to or have already responded to the fire. Metellus’ residence is less than one mile from his rental property at 346 Admiral Street.
According to the affidavit, the investigation revealed that shortly after the fire Metellus allegedly hired a public adjuster to represent him in filing an insurance claim for damages to 346 Admiral Street. Records indicate a claim was filed with the insurer, Lloyd’s of London. The defendant’s claim was filed through a local insurance agency.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney William J. Ferland.