U.S. Department of Justice
Peter F. Neronha
United States Attorney
District of Rhode Island
August 1, 2012
Warwick Woman Sentenced to 10 Years in Federal Prison in Arson-for-Profit Scheme
PROVIDENCE, R.I. - Louisa M. Knight, 43, was sentenced today to 120 months and one day in federal prison for setting fire to her Warwick, R.I., home in an arson-for-profit scheme, and fraudulently collecting more than $44,000 in insurance payments, announced United States Attorney Peter F. Neronha.
U.S. District Court Judge John J. McConnell, Jr. also sentenced Knight to serve three years of supervised release upon completion of her prison term. Knight was ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $44,607.46 to the insurance company. She pleaded guilty on May 15, 2012, to one count of mail fraud and one count of use of fire to commit mail fraud.
At the time of her guilty plea, Knight admitted to the court that she intentionally set fire to a bureau in the basement of her home, which then quickly spread upward and ignited wooden joists and floor boards. Firefighters encountered heavy smoke and had little or no visibility when they entered the home.
Knight admitted that she placed numerous uncovered paint cans on the living room floor, which firefighters knocked over upon entry into the house. Two firefighters were injured extinguishing the fire. The house suffered significant smoke and water damage.
Knight admitted to the court that as part of the scheme and prior to igniting the fire, she removed numerous personal items from the home. Knight admitted that she also sent her daughter and a friend to a nearby park with their family pets, and that both were aware of the plan to set fire to the house. When interviewed by police and fire personnel, they claimed that they had lit a candle in the basement and left it burning when they took the dogs for a walk. As part of the scheme, Knight admitted that she asked a friend to drive her to a local hardware store, and that they agreed to tell investigators that they had left the house to purchase paintbrushes when the fire began.
Knight, who claimed to be in financial distress, admitted that she had made admissions to at least five individuals that she would remedy her financial situation by setting fire to her house and cause an insurance claim to be filed. Knight subsequently received two insurance settlement payments totaling $44,607.46.
The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney William J. Ferland.
The matter was investigated by the FBI; Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation; Rhode Island State Police; and Warwick Fire Department.