Landlord accused of setting fire to occupied building

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The owner of a Providence building that went up in flames last month is being held in federal custody on charges he intentionally set the fire to collect insurance payments.

Rony Metellus, 51, was arrested Thursday on a charge of arson to a building used in interstate commerce, according to the office of U.S. District Attorney Peter Neronha. He was arraigned Friday in U.S. District Court and ordered held.

Three adults and three children were inside the first floor of the Admiral Street home when the flames broke out at about 4 a.m. on July 23. Fortunately there were no injuries and crews were able to knock down the fire, but not before it caused significant damage to the residence.

The DA’s office said a court affidavit described surveillance footage that showed a vehicle similar to one owned by Metellus parking on Admiral Street and a person fitting his description walking towards the building, then back to the vehicle eight minutes later and leaving the scene just before the fire was reported.

Additional surveillance footage taken from a property near Metellus’s home showed the suspect leaving shortly before the fire, then returning after sufficient time had passed for him commit the crime, according to the affidavit. It also mentioned that Metellus lives less than one mile from the rental property.

The arrest was the result of a joint investigation by the Providence Fire Department Arson Squad, the Providence Police Department, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives.

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