Wired: 2010 Part 3, A Book by Paul Caranci

Monday, June 19, 2017
Paul F. Caranci, Author

Each week, GoLocalProv will publish a chapter of the book Wired: The Shocking True Story of Political Corruption and the FBI Informant Who Risked Everything to Expose It, by Paul Caranci. 

The book details how Caranci gambled his thirty-year political career, his reputation, and his family’s safety in his quest to restore good, honest government to a community that needed it most by going undercover with the FBI for 17 months to exposed corruption. 

Buy the book by CLICKING HERE

2010

A Private Citizen is Forced to Take Matters Into His Own Hands

The Town Council members, despite receiving and accepting the reports submitted by the Finance Committee, were convinced by Councilmen Joseph Giammarco and President Mansuet Giusti to take no action. In fact, Giusti joined forces with members of the Lombardi Administration to try to discredit the reports and to charge that they may have even constituted a violation of employee rights. 

Brian Quirk, a regular attendee at the Town Council meetings and President of the North Providence Citizens For Action, was outraged by early indications of Giusti's refusal to act. Giusti's protection of the Administration and apparent concealment of any wrongdoing appeared to Quirk to be part of a greater cover-up. As a result, Quirk took matters into his own hands and filed complaints with the R.I. Ethics Commission against Mayor Charles Lombardi, Acting Finance Director Maria Vallee and Zoning Board member Vincent J. Polisena. The complaints stemmed from the reports compiled by me, Frank Manfredi and Kristen Catanzaro and focused in two areas. 

The first complaint against Maria Vallee involved irregularities in the administration of the HUD Loan Program. The second and third complaints alleged that the mayor and Zoning Board member Vincent Polisena broke the law and violated the town charter when the mayor awarded several no-bid contracts to Polisena Construction, a construction firm owned and operated by Johnston Firefighter Vincent Polisena, who also served as a member and former chairman of the North Providence Zoning Board. The contracts awarded to the firm totaled nearly $1 million with almost 65% of the contracts having been awarded without benefit of competitive bidding. In addition, there were several other documented cases of no-bid contracts being awarded to people who favored the mayor with political contributions.

Under R.I. General Law a person can only be convicted of a violation of state ethics laws if that person benefits financially from the transaction. Under that definition, the complaints against Vallee and Polisena are obvious. The complaint against Lombardi is more difficult to prove. That case alleged that while Lombardi was giving all of these no-bid contracts to Polisena Construction, none of which were issued by the Purchasing Board as law requires, he hired the same firm to install a new roof on the building he owns at 1526 Smith Street in North Providence. That building houses a branch of his dry cleaning company and a pizzeria. Polisena Construction billed the mayor $11,000 for the work but was paid with a $6,000 check from Luxury Cleaners. Allegedly the words “paid in full” were written on the memo line of the check. The allegation is that Polisena discounted the work as a quid-pro-quo for all of the no-bid town work his firm had received. When asked how an $11,000 invoice could be satisfied with a $6,000 payment, Lombardi allegedly replied that he paid the other $5,000 in cash. The roof repairs were completed during a period between July 23, 2007 and December 2, 2008, when Polisena's company received more than $400,000 in contracts from the town according to the complaint. 

Lombardi shook off Quirk's complaints by once again deflecting attention from the facts and attacking the person who filed the charges. “This doesn't surprise me from where it comes from,” Lombardi told reporter Joe LaPlante of the North Breeze. “This fellow is a habitual complainer. He and a couple of council members will try to tie me into this stuff that is going on. They'll have to try pretty hard...The Mayor questioned Quirk's credibility, asserting, 'the police have made 30 calls to his house. What's that tell you? He has a problem with (District 2 Town Council member) Joe Giammarco and he is trying to get to him through me.” The inconvenient truth is that almost all 30 of those police calls were initiated by close Lombardi ally Giammarco who has a running feud with Quirk. That is a story first told in the book Scoundrels: Defining Corruption Through Tales of Political Intrigue in Rhode Island, published in 2016 by Stillwater River Publications. 

Maria Vallee's lawyer evidently borrowed a page from the Lombardi playbook and attacked Councilman Manfredi who first brought the facts against Ms. Vallee to light. In a letter to Town Solicitor Anthony Gallone, and copied to the councilman, Anthony M. Traini wrote “While we are not certain whether Mr. Manfredi's goal is his own political aggrandizement or the embarrassment of Mayor Lombardi, we suggest respectfully that you not continue to assist him, even negligently, in this politically-motivated and obviously malicious endeavor.” What, we all wondered aloud, is malicious about using the truth to expose misdeeds within the ranks of the Administration? 

Ethics Commission Finds Probable Cause to Investigate Lombardi, Polisena and Vallee

On August 31, 2010, the Rhode Island Ethics Commission met to review the complaint against Lombardi, Vallee and Polisena. According to Commission Attorney Jason Gramitt, the Commission voted to launch a probe into the allegations. Lombardi responded to questions from Mark Reynolds of the Providence Journal saying that all of the work that the town gave to Polisena was provided in accordance with the law and was either subjected to the bidding process or was awarded on an emergency basis. He continued he “is not aware of any rule that would have restricted him from hiring Polisena's company for the roof work. He said he is considering Polisena's company for another job at his house.” It is abundantly clear to any casual observer that paying a firm hundreds of thousands of taxpayer’s dollars without first soliciting bids in an effort to obtain the best price, and then hiring that same company to do work on your personal property, provides the appearance of impropriety at the very least. Many wondered aloud how Lombardi could not recognize that!

Douglas Indicted for Extortion Stemming from Gambling Charges

The dust hadn't quite cleared from the latest investigations when on September 13th the U.S. Attorney added yet another charge against former councilman Raymond Douglas. In this indictment Douglas was charged with using extortion to collect sports gambling debts owed him as a result of an illegal gambling operation he was running. The Grand Jury found that Douglas was making book on illegal over-the-phone wagers on football, basketball and baseball games. To cover up his operation, Douglas frequently changed the phone number that betters called to place their bets. 

One gambler owed Douglas somewhere between $6,000 and $8,000 in gambling debts. In a series of text messages dated between April 3rd and June 3rd 2009 (16 in all), while Douglas both served on the Council and worked as an insurance adjuster licensed by the R.I. Department of Business Regulation, he was suggesting that the gambler partake of a fraudulent insurance scheme in order to garner the funds needed to pay the gambling debt. When the debt still remained unpaid, Douglas kicked his collection efforts into high gear. He called the gambler several times, but the unnamed victim failed to return the calls. In one voicemail message saved by the gambler, Douglas is heard saying, 

“Yeah [name deleted], it's me. One more, one more time. I'm hoping you come to your senses. You call me by tomorrow, and, uh, we try to work something out I guess. Obviously you're fucking avoiding me now. So I mean, you know, I don't think you can avoid me. I know where you live; I know where you play golf. I mean I can find you. I mean I just don't think if we're friends it should have to come down to that. Uh, you wanna call me leave me a message say that's what it comes down to if you got the balls to say it to me or uh, or what the fuck the problem 

When Douglas received no response to his threat, he sent a collector to the home of the gambler. 

The collector approached the gambler's wife while her children played in the front yard of their home. The collector said words to the effect, “Where is [name deleted]? When will he be home? Tell him I'm looking for him?” On August 3, 2010, the gambler paid $500 of his illegal gambling debt. At the same time Douglas offered to allow the gambler to repay a portion of the illegal gambling debt by permitting Douglas to cause damage to the gambler's vehicle. The gambler would then file a fraudulent insurance claim as a means of paying for the repairs. According to the indictment, Douglas collected additional $500 payments on September 3rd and September 29th.

Douglas faced Magistrate Martin for a fourth time in as many months on September 13th. Through his attorney, William Dimitri, he entered a plea of not guilty and was released one more time on $50,000 unsecured bond. According to court records, convictions on these charges alone carry a maximum sentence of up to 20 years in prison and $250,000 in fines.

The Elections of 2010

The results of the September primary and the November general election provided no surprises in the outcome of the races to replace the three disgraced Council members. However, the District 1 race to replace me resulted in Lombardi picking up an ally on the Council when newcomer Stephen L. Feola defeated attorney Christopher Petrarca, the candidate whom I supported. Petrarca elected to distance himself from me publicly as the reaction around town to my actions to expose corruption was mixed at best. Chris was an outstanding candidate. He is honest and hardworking, but naïve to the ways of politics. He was promised support from many elected officials that ultimately didn't take a position in his race. That alone may have cost him the election. That disappointment, however, was offset by news of the election of John Lynch, our choice of candidate to replace Frank Manfredi who also decided to forego a run for re-election.

Defense Lawyers Request Trial Delays

On November 5, 2010 Judge Mary M. Lisi approved a motion by the lawyers for three of the indicted men requesting extensions of up to 60 days to file pretrial motions in order to allow for an opportunity to properly review the government's case against their clients. As a result, the date was extended from November 15, 2010 to January 15, 2011. Judge Lisi also moved jury selection scheduled for December 7, 2010 to sometime in February. Burchfield’s attorney, Edward Roy, had requested an extension through January 12th saying that he needed “more time to review materials that federal prosecutors

recently provided through the discovery process,” according to a November 8, 2010 article in the Providence Journal. At the same time, Thomas Connors, the attorney for Imondi, also requested additional time after informing the judge that he had received “voluminous discovery materials” on November 3rd and was told that there was more to come. The Providence Journal reported that Connors' will need more time to review and investigate the government's responses to his queries for information; file motions; and determine if any pleas should be entered.” Ciresi's lawyer, John F. Cicillini was more direct indicating that he required another 60 days just to file pretrial motions. There was no mention of any request for an extension from lawyers for Douglas or Zambarano.

Ethics Commission Dismisses Complaint against Lombardi

While the legal work was mounting for those indicted in the North Providence corruption probe, Mayor Lombardi was able to breath a sigh of relief after learning from the R.I. Ethics Commission that they were dismissing the ethics complaint filed against him by Brian Quirk. He proclaimed loudly that he was pleased with the decision and had known all along that he had done nothing wrong. Closer inspection of the decision, however, revealed that the dismissal was actually possible only because the Commission chose to focus on a very narrow and restrictive time frame in its consideration of the time in which Lombardi would not have been allowed to contract personally with Polisena Construction. 

The complaint had alleged that Lombardi ran afoul of the ethics laws when he hired Polisena Construction to perform roof work on a building he owned while at the same time awarding hundreds of thousands of dollars in no-bid contracts to the same construction company from July 23, 2007 to December 2, 2008. Commission prosecutor, Dianne L. Leyden, said the Commission, however, narrowed its focus to a three-week time period from March 10, 2008 when the building permit was obtained, to April 2, 2008 when Lombardi paid for the roof job. 

During that 3-week period, the town paid Polisena Construction only $4,561 for various work completed at three different locations. State Law requires bidding on construction work only when the aggregate work exceeds $10,000. The work that was awarded to Polisena Construction during that period of time did not exceed $10,000 and therefore did not require bids to be obtained. Further, the Commission’s report indicated that Rocco Gesualdi, Lombardi's former Director of Administration testified that Lombardi “had absolutely no involvement whatsoever,” in the payments to the contractor and no involvement in the contractor's selection. Based only on that testimony and the narrowed time frame, the complaint was dismissed.

New Indictments Expand the Corruption Probe for a Third Time

Zambarano's problems, meanwhile, were expanding beyond those identified at the pretrial motion extension hearings. On Thursday, November 18th, the U.S. Attorney handed down yet another round of indictments with Zambarano again identified as the subject of the scheme. This time he was charged with mail fraud, insurance fraud and conspiracy. Also named in the indictment was former Town Council President and long-time District 3 and At-Large Town Councilman, Robert A. Ricci, age 49. 

As discussed previously, Bob Ricci was intimately involved in a number of questionable actions that raised suspicion of wrongdoing in my mind. These included questions arising from the Delta Drug liquor license conversion of a Class E to A license, the negotiation of tax breaks for the owner of the Fruit Hill Plaza development in exchange for sidewalk and lighting improvements that never materialized, the sale of the Ricci's Pizza Restaurant liquor license to Jack O'Rourke, and another Baccari/Ciresi mill conversion deal of the Greystone Mill Complex in the Greystone area of North Providence. Ricci retired from the Council a few years prior and was working as a hearing officer at the R.I. Contractor's Registration and Licensing Board at the time of his indictment. 

In addition to Ricci and Zambarano, two private citizens also faced indictments. Forty-nine year old, Lite Rock 105 FM radio personality, Lori Sergiacomi, better known to her listeners as Tanya Cruise and 61-year old public insurance adjustor and owner of VDP United Consultants Inc., Vincent O. DiPaolo. Although DiPaolo held himself out to be a public insurance adjuster with an office in Providence, his license had actually been revoked by the R.I. Department of Business Regulation on December 31, 2007. Of all the people indicted in the North Providence corruption probe to this point, only DiPaolo takes up residence outside of North Providence. He hails from the neighboring Town of Johnston.  

The newest indictments revolved around a scheme by the four defendants to conspire to defraud an insurance company of almost $50,000 by intentionally damaging Sergiacomi's home and then filing a false insurance claim to cover the cost of repairs. The repairs, of course, were to be completed by Ricci and Zambarano who frequently partnered in real estate deals. While the quartet discussed their plans openly on the telephone, the FBI listened in via a court ordered wiretap. What they heard was astounding. 

During the March 2010 floods that plagued Rhode Island, Sergiacomi’s home at 12 Caldar Road in North Providence sustained water damage. She assumed it was from the rising groundwater. Sergiacomi called her friend John Zambarano for help knowing that he was in the construction business. Zambarano instructed her to call Vin DiPaolo, an adjuster that he had done business with previously. DiPaolo suggested a water removal company and set up an appointment for that company to go to Lori's house to extract the water. What DiPaolo didn't expect, however, was that a representative of that company would tell Lori that the damage in her finished basement was from the flood and was not likely to be covered by her insurance policy. Because the state was declared a disaster area, he said, The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) would be offering low interest loans to help residents with the cost of flood damage repair. He advised Lori to call FEMA to apply for financial assistance in paying for the cleanup. 

On April 1st, Sergiacomi notified Zambarano of the conversation with the representative from the water cleanup company and, at his urging, promised not to call FEMA until speaking with DiPaolo, her insurance adjuster. Zambarano, in fact, offered to make the call for her. During the 3:47 p.m. phone call Zambarano said to DiPaolo, “The fuckin' guy from the company you sent over there told her to call FEMA, they'll help you out. I... she's calling me up, should I call? I said, no...no the insurance is going to be involved in this.” “No!” DiPaolo said, “the FEMA's, a fuckin'.... they haven't even declared that yet for Christ sakes.” “He's telling her to call FEMA,” Zam insisted. “I said FEMA ain't... FEMA ain't gonna take care of your pool or nothing. Just leave it the way it is.” DiPaola then unloaded about the Water Removal Company suggesting that in the future they “mind their fucking, just get over there and do what you got to do. You got to do the remediation and everything else first over there so...Fucking crazy, I'm trying to put a claim in and he's going to let FEMA in...fucking...They're just giving loans out.” 

Zambarano hung up the phone with DiPaolo and immediately called Sergiacomi. Describing his discussion with DiPaolo, Zambarano told her, “He starts screaming. He said why don't these fuckin people mind their own business. He said FEMA is ...is a government-funded agency that gives you interest free loans to take care of things. You got to pay that back. He said just let it stay. This was damage for the roof. All this is going to lead to her roof.” Sergiacomi replied, “I know that's cool, but according to [the water removal company] you don't have to pay it back. They are giving it out like Haiti aid.” “No, no,” Zambarano said, “he said 'Forget it.'” Lori was compliant. 

With that issue resolved, the two turned their attention to the type of damage that Zambarano would cause at the property. “I'll be there tomorrow though,” Zambarano told her. “Okay,” Lori responded, “what time? I'm gonna be here at 2:00.” “No. It doesn't matter,” Zambarano said. “You don't have to be home... ...It's gonna be after 2:00 anyways. What I'm gonna do is take the ladder in the back, go on the roof. Do what I got to do over there and get the branch for the pool.... So I'll be there in the afternoon.” 

Concerning the proper implement with which he could damage the pool liner, Lori advised Zambarano that she had a “good size little branch that could do it.” 

Zambarano wasn't off the phone for ten minutes when DiPaolo called back. “Okay, so I mean like, you know. [The owner of the company] was just like, you know caught up in the fucking excitement of the whole fucking thing. You know trying to give out some good information. He wasn't even fucking thinking when he told her. I just called him. I said '[owner's name] what are you fuckin stupid? You’re fuckin tellin' the broad to call FEMA. She wants to not even call her insurance company. What are you crazy?' you know.” “Yeah,” Zambarano agreed, “FEMA ain't gonna take care of her pool.” DiPaola continued, “They're not gonna take care...I told him, I said '[owner's name]...the pool and the roof and all that fuckin' shit, you know.' He says 'well, they're going to have a hard time collecting.' I says, 'Don't worry leave that up to me. I'll take care of that.'” Zambarano reassured DiPaola by again confirming that Lori was not going to make the call to FEMA.

Zambarano and DiPaolo discussed the reasons why getting FEMA involved was not a good idea. DiPaolo noted that aside from only providing no interest loans that had to be repaid; FEMA is “not going to cover. They're not gonna cover anything on the roof. They're only gonna cover shit in the basement, water, you know, so...” 

The following day Zambarano arrived at Sergiacomi's house at the appointed time and used her branch to damage the pool. At 11:54 A.M. He called DiPaola to report the result of his efforts. “Vinny, Alright, I took care of the pool over there. She didn't call the insurance company yet. She gonna call them first thing Monday.” DiPaolo seemed pleased and proceeded to instruct Zambarano on how to damage the roof. Zambarano said, “I just got to go on the roof later on this afternoon and do what I got to do over there. I got a good size branch...made a...you know a hole in the thing and it went through the liner.” “Uh... just make sure that...uh...the roof...uh...it's over the kitchen area, over the bathroom area,” DiPaola said virtually ignoring any talk of the pool.

A few minutes later, shortly after noon, Zambarano placed a call to Bob Ricci to discuss the details of the roof damage. “Bobby. What are you doing later on? You come over Lori Sergiacomi's with me? Vinny showed me what to do with that roof and those certain sections.” “Why,” Ricci replied, “he wants to patch it?” “No, we got to pull it up, pull some shingles up and put, some drop, and put some canvasses on top of it with a piece of furring. He said, he told me where to rip some shingles up.” Zambarano said. “It's a big roof, it's a nice roof job we can do.”

Ricci inquired about DiPaolo's actions in concealing the scheme from the insurance company. “Now what if they want to go inside and see the house where it's leaking?” “I already got that,” Zambarano said. “Vinny's already got that covered. He's got it. He did it.” 

At 2:38 in the afternoon, Ricci and Zambarano spoke again. Ricci noted how impressed he was with DiPaolo's actions. “Wow...unreal. That Vinny's too much though. That guy's made a career out of fuckin shiesterin.'” Zambarano agreed. “Does he do anything honest?” Ricci continued. “I just can't believe he makes a living, he makes a good living out of just...I can't believe it. His whole life, his whole career probably, is doing things like that.” Zambarano bragged about DiPaolo's innovation. 

“I took him over to Lori's house the other night. He said, 'Who is the ins... who is the insurance?' It was Rhode Island Housing or something. 'Oh..oh... I know... we'll be able to work this out.' He knows all the fuckin' agencies, all the fuckin' adjusters.” “Gives them all kickbacks,” Ricci responded. He continued, “Unbelievable. What are you going to do? I just laugh. I just say 'Oh my God. We're over there patchin' fuckin roofs.' So ridiculous! What are you gonna do? What you gotta do to survive is ridiculous. It's the truth. What are you gonna do? You got no choice. It's terrible.” 

On April 5th, the day after Easter, Sergiacomi contacted the local insurance agency and falsely reported that her residence had been damaged in a windstorm occurring on April 5, 2010. She knew the statement to be false and in fact had helped to orchestrate the damage. She reported that the damage was the result of wind and rainwater but her insurance report noted that the storm damage occurred on a date in which the weather was actually clear and sunny with very little wind. At 11:14 A.M., she called Zambarano to inform him that the false claim had been filed. “Hey Lor. Did you talk to Vinny?” Zambarano asked. 

“Yup, I did. I talked to the insurance agency. I talked to [agent's name]. And I was, uhm, I was telling her about all the damage. She's like, 'Did it come from the ground?' I said, 'No. If it did I would be calling up FEMA.' When I told Vinny that he laughed. I said it came from the ceiling. Cellar. I mean...down into the cellar I said the roof is ruined. You know, I got a branch in my pool. She goes, 'I don't know, the pool, if they'll do that. 'She goes, 'I'll put a claim in anyway.' I said, 'They better. It's a new pool liner and there's a big stick in it. There's a big branch in it.” 

Apparently Zambarano wasn't fully satisfied with the extent of the damage that he had created. So, on April 6th, in anticipation of a visit by an insurance adjuster, he visited the Sergiacomi home again and caused additional damage. Zambarano bragged to DiPaolo, “Wait till you see Lori's house. You're gonna want me to be your demolition man all the time. I spent three fucking hours over there getting everything ready.” 

On April 8th Zambarano tried to calm Lori's nerves by telling her what she could expect. You're going to get “a brand new roof, brand new bathroom, brand new..uh..walls in the uh porch there, whatever room you call that, with the ...casino rug.” “I'm not nervous,” she told him. “The only thing I'm nervous about is the insurance company here saying, okay fine. They do that, I am not nervous.” 

At one point Sergiacomi questioned whether Zambarano had done more damage than the insurance company would pay for, but Zambarano reassured her that all the repair costs would be covered. Then, feeling a little paranoid, Zambarano advised Lori not to show anyone the damage other than the insurance company. Again Zambarano reminded her of the benefits she would receive as a result of the claim. A new kitchen and bath... “John, you're, you're like my, my dad,” Lori interrupted “I know,” Zambarano continued with a laugh, “And you're gonna have money left over.”

DiPaolo met with the adjuster for the Insurance Company regarding the claim on April 9th and falsely reported that the damage to Sergiacomi's home was caused by a windstorm on April 5th. Zambarano called Sergiacomi to report that the meeting had taken place and everything went well. “Yeah, alright, good then I'm not worried anymore,” Lori exclaimed. 

The two spoke again four days later to discuss how DiPaolo had inflated the amount of money in the claim to forty-thousand dollars to be sure that there would be enough money to pay for all the damage Zambarano had caused. Zambarano told her that he would call DiPaola to be sure the claim was adequate. Over the next several days the four conspirators spent a significant amount of time discussing the cost of repairs and the importance of an inflated claim. DiPaolo warned against inflating the number so high so as to cause additional scrutiny from the insurance company. By April 17th, after about two dozen conversations, it was decided that DiPaolo would submit a claim in the amount of $48,000. “I'll get you through this here nice and smooth,” DiPaolo told Sergiacomi. 

“Once John gets me that estimate then I'll... I'm gonna merge John's estimate into my estimate.” “What should John's estimate be,” Lori asked. “Just tell me what it should be. Listen, John could go off. He's talking about all tile in the bathroom and everything. He could go...he could go to $100,000.” “Listen,” DiPaolo said, “when John comes to me tomorrow with that paperwork, him and I will sit down and we'll crunch some numbers.” 

On April 17th, Zambarano once again told Sergiacomi all the things she would be getting as a result of the false claim. The new roof seemed to excite her the most, but the granite counter tops in the kitchen sounded pretty good to her as well. After discussing the estimate with DiPaolo several times, the final submission read $49,188. 

With the Sergiacomi claim almost behind them, Zambarano turned his attention to other jobs that might be created through fraud. In a conversation with Bob Ricci on April 21st, Zambarano told Ricci, “Get ready. A lot of jobs I've got comin' up.” “Get 'em John. I need some fuckin' money,” Ricci said. “Get 'em, get 'em. I've got to make some fuckin' cash.” Zambarano was getting excited now. “If...if...if we do all these three jobs. The one over the...where we were today. The one on Alexandria and Thelma Street and Tanya Cruise's. You know how much work I made to do on her house? The damage I did. You wouldn't believe.” “Good,” Ricci replied, “Get to work Zamby! Get to work!” “You wouldn't believe. I destroyed her house,” Zambarano continued. “Good,” Ricci said, “Let's get the fuckin' work, come on. Take it on. We'll do it. I'll work around the clock. I don't give a fuck.” “Neither do I,” Zam agreed.

Suspicions or Paranoia

As the list of fraudulent projects began to grow, so did Zambarano’s paranoia. On April 29, 2010, he discussed his fears with Bob Ricci. “Well, what makes it weirder is we have such guilty consciences that anytime any of this happens, right off the bat we always assume the worst,” Ricci said. “Because we have a guilty conscience of everything else that we're doing that we're not supposed to be doing.” Zambarano agreed. “That's the problem,” Ricci continued, “Do you understand?” 

On August 17, 2010, Sergiacomi signed and caused to be filed, according to the FBI, a “Sworn Statement in Proof of Loss” in which she falsely represented to the Insurance Company that the damage to her residence was caused by a windstorm on April 5, 2010; that the amount of the damage was $46,071.57; and that the loss “did not originate by any act, design, or procurement” on her part; that “nothing has been done by or with her privity or consent” that “no articles are mentioned herein but such as were destroyed or damaged at the time of loss”; and that “no attempt to deceive said company as to the extent of said loss, has in any manner been made.” As Lori signed the document she thought she was home free. In fact, she had just sealed her fate.

At the State's Contractor's Registration and Licensing Board officials launched an internal investigation of Ricci who worked at the agency for 20 years and was recently promoted to a position as a hearing officer. He was earning $80,336 a year to hear cases involving homeowners' complaints against contractors for failing to finish work, shoddy construction or accepting payments without completing construction projects, according to the Providence Journal. In addition to his state job, Ricci owned R.A.R. Building and Home Improvement, a company involved in the construction and remodeling of houses. One might think that the two interests would conflict, but apparently nobody thought to check closely enough. 

November 24th was the day set for arraignment of the four people named in the latest round of indictments. Each defendant approached the federal courthouse where they stood before Magistrate Judge Lincoln C. Almond. For John Zambarano this exercise was becoming routine. For the others, it must have been a bit more intimidating. Ricci's lawyer, C. Leonard O'Brien, “asked the court to allow his client to visit his aging father who lives outside Orlando, Fl., but Almond said that he would not issue a 'carte blanch' order that would give Ricci the freedom to travel.” He barred both Ricci and DiPaolo from leaving the state saying that Ricci could petition the court for specific visits if need be.

William Devereaux, the attorney representing Sergiacomi, asked Almond to allow his client to travel to Seekonk, MA, where she sometimes has to make appearances for work. That permission was granted. All four defendants were released on a $50,000 bond. 

Polisena Admits Guilt to Ethics Commission

In early December 2010, Vincent J. Polisena penned a letter to the Town Council indicating that in addition to not seeking reappointment to the Zoning Board when his 5-year term expired in January 2013 and would also voluntarily step down from the Board in January 2011. The letter explained that he was unable to both administer his construction business and comply with the State's ethics laws. Polisena specifically cited “the technical constraints placed on my business by the R.I. Code of Ethics.” 

While noting the constraints of the R.I. Ethics Commission, Polisena’s letter failed to acknowledge the Town charter provision that bars paid members of boards and commissions from contracting with the town. Polisena was in fact paid for his service on the Board despite Maria Vallee’s assurances to the contrary in her response to the APRA request that was made of the town. However, after Frank Manfredi and I expressed concern that any payment to Polisena might constitute a violation of the Town charter, he was asked to return any compensation he had received. Though the Administration initially lied by explaining in response to an APRA request that Polisena had not been paid for his service on the Zoning Board, the truth was discovered months later when Councilwoman Kristen Catanzaro discovered the once issued and subsequently returned cancelled checks when she requested the same town records for a different purpose.

The evidence was enough to allow the Ethics Commission to convince Polisena to accept responsibility for his violations. On December 22, 2010, The Commission reported that they had in fact found Polisena guilty of violating the law on many occasions and accepted a settlement agreement. In exchange for an admission that he received tens of thousands of dollars in no-bid contracts from the town in violation of state law, Polisena agreed to pay a civil penalty of $8,500 and remove himself from the Zoning Board. 

This finding begs the question, "If Polisena is guilty of accepting tens of thousands of dollars in no-bid cotracts from the town in violation of state law, how is the town not guilty of granting tens of thousands of dollars in no-bid contracts in violation of state law?"

Paul F. Caranci is a historian and serves on the board of directors for the RI Heritage Hall of Fame. He is a cofounder of, and consultant to The Municipal Heritage Group and the author of five published books including two produced by The History Press. North Providence: A History & The People Who Shaped It (2012) and The Hanging & Redemption of John Gordon: The True Story of Rhode Island’s Last Execution (2013) that was selected by The Providence Journal as one of the top five non-fiction books of 2013. Paul served for eight years as Rhode Island’s Deputy Secretary of State and for almost seventeen years as a councilman in his hometown of North Providence. He is married to his high school sweetheart, Margie. They have two adult children, Heather and Matthew, and four grandsons, Matthew Jr., Jacob, Vincent and Casey.

  • Buddy Cianci

    Vincent A. "Buddy" Cianci resigned as Providence Mayor in 1984 after pleading nolo contendere to charges of assaulting a Bristol man with a lit cigarette, ashtray, and fireplace log. Cianci believed the man to be involved in an affair with his wife. 

    Cianci did not serve time in prison, but received a 5-year suspended sentence. He was replaced by Joseph R. Paolino, Jr. in a special election. 

     
  • Joseph Bevilacqua

    Joseph Bevilacqua was RI Speaker of the House from 1969 to 1975, and was appointed as Chief Justice of the State Supreme Court in 1976.  It was alleged that Bevilacqua had connections to organized crime throughout his political career.  

    According to a 1989 article that appeared in The New York Times at the time of his death:

    The series of events that finally brought Mr. Bevilacqua down began at the end of 1984... stating that reporters and state police officers had observed Mr. Bevilacqua repeatedly visiting the homes of underworld figures.

    The state police alleged that Mr. Bevilacqua had also visited a Smithfield motel, owned by men linked to gambling and drugs...

     
  • Thomas Fay

    Thomas Fay, the successor to Bevilacqua as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, resigned in 1993, and was later found guilty on three misdemeanor counts of directing arbitration work to a partner in his real estate firm, Lincoln Center Properties.  

    Fay was also alleged to use court employees, offices, and other resources for the purposes of the real estate firm.  Fay, along with court administrator and former Speaker of the House, Matthew "Mattie" Smith were alleged to have used court secretaries to conduct business for Lincoln, for which Fay and Smith were business partners. 

    Fay was fined $3,000 and placed on one year probation. He could have been sentenced for up to three years in prison. 

     
  • Brian J. Sarault

    Former Pawtucket Mayor Brian J. Sarault was sentenced in 1992 to more than 5 years in prison, after pleading guilty to a charge of racketeering.  

    Sarault was arrested by state police and FBI agents at Pawtucket City Hall in 1991, who alleged that the mayor had attempted to extort $3,000 from former RI State Rep. Robert Weygand as a kickback from awarding city contracts.

    Weygand, after alerting federal authorities to the extortion attempt, wore a concealed recording device to a meeting where he delivered $1,750 to Sarault.

     
  • Edward DiPrete

    Edward DiPrete became the first Rhode Island Governor to be serve time in prison after pleading guilty in 1998 to multiple charges of corruption.

    He admitted to accepting bribes and extorting money from contractors, and accepted a plea bargain which included a one-year prison sentence.

    DiPrete served as Governor from 1985-1991, losing his 1990 re-election campaign to Bruce Sundlun.

     
  • Plunder Dome

    Cianci was forced to resign from the Mayor’s office a second time in 2002 after being convicted on one several charges levied against him in the scandal popularly known as “Operation Plunder Dome.” 

    The one guilty charge—racketeering conspiracy--led to a five-year sentence in federal prison. Cianci was acquitted on all other charges, which included bribery, extortion, and mail fraud.

    While it was alleged that City Hall had been soliciting bribes since Cianci’s 1991 return to office, much of the case revolved around a video showing a Cianci aide, Frank Corrente, accepting a $1,000 bribe from businessman Antonio Freitas. Freitas had also recorded more than 100 conversations with city officials.

    Operation Plunder Dome began in 1998, and became public when the FBI executed a search warrant of City Hall in April 1999. 

    Cianci Aide Frank Corrente, Tax Board Chairman Joseph Pannone, Tax Board Vice Chairman David C. Ead, Deputy tax assessor Rosemary Glancy were among the nine individuals convicted in the scandal. 

     
  • N. Providence Councilmen

    Three North Providence City Councilmen were convicted in 2011 on charges relating to a scheme to extort bribes in exchange for favorable council votes. In all, the councilmen sought more than $100,000 in bribes.

    Councilmen Raimond A. Zambarano, Joseph Burchfield, and Raymond L. Douglas III were sentenced to prison terms of 71 months, 64 months, and 78 months, respectively. 

     
  • Charles Moreau

    Central Falls Mayor Charles Moreau resigned in 2012 before pleading guilty to federal corruption charges. 

    Moreau admitted that he had give contractor Michael Bouthillette a no-bid contract to board up vacant homes in exchange for having a boiler installed in his home. 

    He was freed from prison in February 2014, less than one year into a 24 month prison term, after his original sentence was vacated in exchange for a guilty plea on a bribery charge.  He was credited with tim served, placed on three years probation, and given 300 hours of community service.

     
  • Joe Almeida

    State Representative Joseph S. Almeida was arrested and charged on February 10, 2015 for allegedly misappropriating $6,122.03 in campaign contributions for his personal use. Following his arrest, he resigned his position as House Democratic Whip, but remains a member of the Rhode Island General Assembly.

     
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