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Press Release

Guilty Plea in Woonsocket Arson Case

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Rhode Island

PROVIDENCE – A 23-year-old man charged with setting fires in three locations inside a Woonsocket mill-type building in April 2019 today pleaded guilty in federal court to a charge of arson, announced United States Attorney Zachary A. Cunha.

Jacob E. Lahousse admitted that he set the fires after climbing a ladder and entering the rear of the building, which houses at least two businesses.

According to charging documents and information presented to the court, video surveillance shows Lahousse walking around the inside of building collecting various items and placing them into bags. About two hours after entering the building, Lahousse is seen on surveillance video destroying several video surveillance cameras. Lahousse then set three separate fires in the building that night: one inside a desktop computer on the basement level, one to a piece(s) of fabric on the basement level, and one on a loveseat in a first-floor office. 

After receiving a fire alarm activation from the building, Woonsocket firefighters discovered smoke in the building and water flowing from sprinkler heads. They extinguished the small fire inside the desktop computer and smoldering papers on a desk in a first-floor office. Investigators also observed evidence of forced entry, smashed computers, ransacked offices in the form of papers strewn all about, and an attempted forced entry into a safe.

In the office that sustained fire damage a handwritten note was posted on the wall that stated, “[i]n case you decided 2 call the feds I got pics of the fam.” On the desk next to the note was an empty picture frame that previously contained a family photo.

Lahousse was identified as the individual depicted in the video surveillance by numerous individuals.  On  July 14, 2019, he was arrested by Blackstone, MA, police and  found to be in possession of two checkbooks in the name of the owner of one of the businesses inside the Woonsocket building where he had set the fires.

Lahousse is scheduled to be sentenced on December 12, 2022. The defendant’s sentence will be determined by a federal district judge after consideration of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

Arson is punishable by statutory penalties of between five and twenty years of incarceration to be followed by three years of federal supervised release.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Dulce Donovan.

The matter was investigated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; the Woonsocket Police Department; and the Rhode Island State Fire Marshal’s Office.

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Contact

Jim Martin
(401) 709-5357

Updated September 12, 2022

Press Release Number: 22-121