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Thursday, January 15, 2015

Three Plead Guilty, 4th to Stand Trial in Federal Court in Arson-for-Profit Scheme



PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Gbabia Kollie, 27, of Johnson City, Tenn., has pleaded guilty in federal court in Providence to participating in an alleged scheme to burn a multi-tenement building at 31-33 Ida Street in Providence in November 2013, in an alleged arson-for-profit scheme. Kollie has been detained in federal custody since December 5, 2013, when he was removed from an outbound international flight leaving Atlanta for Liberia and arrested by ATF agents.

Appearing on Wednesday before U.S. District Court Chief Judge William E. Smith, Kollie pleaded guilty to one count each of conspiracy to commit arson and arson. He faces statutory penalties totaling between 5 and 40 years in federal prison and a fine of up to $500,000 when he is sentenced on April 3, 2015.

Two co-conspirators, Abraham Kerkula, 21, of Pawtucket and Nakele Freeman, 21, of Providence, previously pleaded guilty to one count each of conspiracy to commit arson and arson. Kerkula is scheduled to be sentenced by U.S. District Court Chief Judge William E. Smith on March 27, 2015. A sentencing hearing has not yet been scheduled for Nakele Freeman. Both are detained in federal custody.

A fourth defendant in this matter, Kormahyah Karmue, 39, of, Providence, owner of the Ida Street property allegedly targeted to be burned, is awaiting trial on charges of conspiracy to commit arson, arson, wire fraud, mail fraud and theft of U.S. government funds. It is alleged in a federal indictment returned in May 2014, that Karmue masterminded the scheme in order to collect insurance payments. He has pleaded not guilty to the charges and is detained in federal custody.

The guilty pleas are announced by 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.

At the time of his guilty plea, Kollie admitted to the court that he enlisted the assistance of Nakele Freeman to participate in the alleged conspiracy.  At the time of their guilty pleas, Freeman and Kerkula admitted that late in the evening of November 1 and in the early morning hours of November 2, 2013, Freeman asked Kerkula to give him a ride to a location where he was going to set fire to a building for “a lot of money.”

After traveling together to purchase 5-gallon gasoline storage containers and gasoline, Freeman and Kerkula traveled to the targeted property where Freeman removed the gasoline from the vehicle and entered the building. Freeman admitted to the court that he entered a vacant third floor apartment and spread the gasoline, and a fire ignited. He fled the building and met Kerkula at a designated location on a nearby side street.

According to court documents and information presented to the court, it is alleged that Kollie arranged with Freeman to set fire to the building in return for a payment of a portion of the expected insurance settlement. It is alleged that Kollie had several telephone conversations with Freeman while Freeman and Kerkula were in the vehicle en route to the Ida Street property.
An indictment is merely an allegation and is 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.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney William J. Ferland.

The investigation was conducted by ATF, the Providence Fire Department Arson Squad and the Providence Police Department Detective Bureau.

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