Feds: Serial arsonist arrested, accused of targeting Middle Eastern victims

Posted at 11:25 AM, Mar 05, 2019
and last updated 2019-03-05 18:10:56-05

(WXYZ) — Federal agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms arrested a metro Detroit man, accused of being a serial arsonist targeting Middle Eastern victims.

According to a criminal complaint filed this week, the investigation started when a business in Inkster was set on fire on Feb. 3, 2019. The fire was determined to be an arson and video showed a man placing six one-gallon jugs with a yellow liquid in front of the strip mall. The suspect then tried to break a window, but failed, and then pulled out a flare and used it to ignite the liquid. The same building was set on fire in April 2018.

After investigating, sources told the ATF that the suspect was identified as Nicholas Diedo. Investigators later learned that the reporting person and Diedo got into a fight on Dec. 8, 2018, and the person installed surveillance cameras at his house because of Diedo targeting him. Diedo was arrested for assault and battery.

The source also told investigators that Diedo was angry at city council for not doing anything about the high number of dealer plates in Dearborn Heights, so Diedo stole several dealer plates. In May 2018, Diedo was convicted of stealing those plates.

In February 2019, special agents from the ATF met with Inkster police about the April fire at the same building, and video surveillance found the suspect was similar stature to Diedo and wearing nearly the same clothing.

Video showed the suspect trying to throw a green rope with a hook-type device on the roof, and then pouring an accelerant out of a bottle and using a flare to ignite the blaze.

Investigators also found a police report from June 1, 2018, for an arson of a 2018 BMW behind a a home on Rochelle. Police and fire responded and a melted bottle was found on top of the burned vehicle. A witness said he saw the suspect, the suspect took off.

They found out that Diedo's backyard was adjacent to the victim's backyard, and that he had previously been arrested for crimes against people of Middle Eastern descent. Officers found Diedo standing in his backyard, and when questioned, he told them he was "just out" and didn't sleep well. They eventually arrested him after smelling a combination of lighter fluid and gas coming from Diedo, on a suspicion of arson.

Police then executed a search warrant at his house and found a water bottle containing accelerant in the backyard, matches and empty water bottles on the table, accelearant on the deck and more.

According to the complaint, there had been several arsons involving Middle Eastern Victims between April 5 and April 22, 2018. The reports stated that five vehicles were set on fire between 2:40 a.m. and 5:22 a.m., and all were parked at residences about .7 miles from Diedo's residence.

Eventually, ATF, Dearborn Heights police and Inkster police executed a search warrant on Thursday, March 4, at Diedo's house. Inside, they found:

  • Black hooded sweatshirt with thick white strings in his bedroom. The same one seen in surveillance video on April 20, 2018, and Feb. 3, 2019.
  • Black bag with white straps seen in the video from April and February. Inside the bag were flares, a lighter, and a cut up white cloth with black stripes
  • A Molotov cocktail
  • The green rope with a hook tied to the end under his bed, seen in the surveillance video from April 20
  • Clear, plastic, one gallon jug with blue cap
  • Several Gatorade bottles in the garage with a liquid that smelled like gas
  • A yellow Tide bottle which smelled like gasoline and looked like the bottle used on April 20, 2018
  • A brick with a rope tied around it in the basement