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38 Studios’ Corso Launches Coffee Company in RI

Monday, October 09, 2017

 

Michael Corso and Bramo Coffee

One of the central players in the collapse of 38 Studios was Michael Corso and now he is on to his next venture — Bramo, a cold brewed coffee marketed in a metal container.

Corso was the political crony of former Speaker of the House Gordon Fox, who was recently released from federal prison. 

In October of 2016, 38 Studios founder Curt Schilling said he was stunned that Fox's crony and 38 Studios consultant Corso was not charged criminally. 

BRAMO Coffee

Now, Corso has launched Bramo — “Whole Bean Vanilla is now available in a convenient 12FL oz aluminum resealable bottle!  Bring your favorite brew on the go with you anywhere!…The taste is always smooth and never bitter. Bottoms up!”

Corso does not hide his involvement in the Bramo brand. On the company's website Corso signs the message to consumers.

The Bramo corporation filed papers with the Rhode Island Secretary of State’s office in September of 2015, prior to the release of the report by Attorney General Peter Kilmartin and then—Rhode Island State Police Colonel Steven O’Donnell.  At a July, 2016 press conference, Kilmartin and O'Donnell announced that no criminal charges would be filed. 

Bramo products can be found at Whole Foods Markets in Providence and Cranston as well multiple locations in Massachusetts, according to the company's website.

Request for comment by Corso were not responded to.

Corso — Political Insider and 38 Studios Financing Scheme Architect

Corso over the past two decades had been able to use his relationships and political connections to make millions in fees from historic tax credits, payments on the 38 Studios deal, and movie tax credits -- all taxpayer sponsored programs. His success in part was fueled by his relationship with Fox, who presently lives in a halfway house in Pawtucket.

Corso dished out thousands in campaign donations

While Corso made millions on historic tax credits and was paid hundreds of thousands by 38 Studios for activities related to securing the $75 million in loan guarantees, Corso tapped the Rhode Island state coffers for millions more in movie tax credits.

As GoLocal reported in 2012:

The Providence lawyer who pledged more than $14 million in Rhode Island motion picture tax credits that had not actually been issued as collateral in order to obtain an $8.5 million loan for Curt Schilling’s 38 Studios is now playing a behind-the-scenes role in a Michael Corrente movie that is slated to receive $625,000 in state tax credits," GoLocalProv has learned.

38 Studios Documents on Corso:

Michael Corso's Deposition 

Corso Exhibit #125 Corso and Zaccagnino emails from 2009

Corso Exhibit #126 Corso email includes valuation documents on 38 Studios - date July, 2009

Corso Exhibit 127 List of NDA agreements signed

Corso Exhibit 128 Corso one-pager about 38 Studios, October 2009

Corso Exhibit 129 Email outlining February 2010 of RI staffing

Corso Exhibit 130 Email from Zaccagnino and Fox, March 2010

Corso Exhibit 131 Email from Schilling, cc:ing Fox and Zaccagnino, March 17, 2010

Corso Exhibit 132 Corso tells Stokes, all future communications should go through him

Corso, Exhibit 133 Projo reporter, see GoLocal story

Corso, Exhibit 134 Draft agreement between EDC and 38 Studios, March 25, 2010

Corso, Exhibit 135 498 Kinsley as a potential location for the company

Corso, Exhibit 136 Revised draft of agreement and draft legislation, April 1, 2010

Corso, Exhibit 137  Setting up calls with Wells Fargo, April 7, 2010

Corso, Exhibit 138 Stolzman and Corso

Corso, Exhibit 139 Due diligence memo, March 31, 2010

Corso, Exhibit 140 Wells Fargo needs to get approved

Corso, Exhibit 141 Corso, Saul and Stolzman

Corso, Exhibit 142 Draft comments for press conference, July 2010

Corso, Exhibit 143 Ownership schedule of 38 Studios

Corso, Exhibit 144 Payment to Orb - $250,000, Michael Corso

Corso, Exhibit 145 Payment to Corso for closing, $409,340.

 

Related Slideshow: INVESTIGATION: Fox, Corso and 38 Studios

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The Early Years

Early 2000s

Fox was emerging as a powerful leader in the House via his role on the Finance Committee and later as Finance Committee Chair. Corso served on the management team at developer's Buff Chace's Cornish Associates.

The two worked together to write and pass the Historic Tax Credit Legislation.

Bio attached from the early 2000's - Cornish Assoicates Website.

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Insiders

Insiders Had Hands All Over Schilling’s 38 Studios Deal

The owner of the construction company that was awarded a contract to work on the interior of 38 Studios’ downtown headquarters has close ties to House leadership and other prominent local politicians, GoLocalProv has learned.

Steven Nappa, who owns Nappa Construction Management, has contributed over $16,000 over the last decade to top politicians including House Speaker Gordon Fox, Congressman and former Providence Mayor David Cicilline, Providence Mayor Angel Taveras, former House Speaker William Murphy and former House Finance chairman Steven Costantino. In June 2011, Nappa also contributed $1,000 to the Fund for Democratic Priorities, a political action committee maintained by House leadership.

Nappa is also connected with Michael Corso, a Providence lawyer who has made a fortune helping to sell state tax credits and was involved in the earliest meetings between Schilling and Rhode Island officials. The two hosted a private fundraiser at the Peerless Lofts for then-Majority Leader Fox in 2007. Nappa also helped build the movie screen located in the open space next to Tazza, the downtown café owned by Corso.

Corso himself has contributed $11,625 to Fox, Cicilline, Taveras, Murphy and other local politicians in recent years.

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Movie Tax Credits

Corso and Movie Tax Credits

The Providence lawyer who pledged more than $14 million in Rhode Island motion picture tax credits that had not actually been issued as collateral in order to obtain an $8.5 million loan for Curt Schilling’s 38 Studios is now playing a behind-the-scenes role in a Michael Corrente movie that is slated to receive $625,000 in state tax credits, GoLocalProv has learned.

Michael Corso, a top tax credit broker whose loan agreement with BankRI is among several 38 Studios-related matters currently being investigated by state and federal authorities, is one of seven producers for “Backmask,” a horror film currently being shot in Exeter, according to IMDB. Corso’s business partner, Anthony Gudas, is listed as the executive producer and former State Rep. John Loughlin has a small role in the film.

 

On Monday, the Rhode Island Film and TV Office confirmed the film has received an “Initial Certification Letter” for the tax credits. Corso did not respond to a request for comment.

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Tazza Fundraiser

Questions Surround Speaker Fox’s Relationship with 38 Studios Insider

Several weeks after initial inquiries from GoLocalProv, House Speaker Gordon Fox still isn’t answering questions about a 2007 fundraiser held for him by the lawyer who would play a pivotal role in bringing Curt Schilling’s 38 Studios to Rhode Island three years later.

In March 2007, Michael Corso, Steven Nappa and Robert Britto of Nappa Building Corp. and former State Representative Ray Rickman were listed as the hosts of a private fundraiser held in the Peerless Lofts for the then-Majority Leader. The event, which helped Fox rake in approximately $10,000, was catered by Tazza, the downtown café owned by Corso.

But while Fox’s campaign finance reports from the time include details about several other fundraising events held during the first quarter of 2007, there is no information listed about expenses incurred for the Corso-hosted event, which may constitute a campaign finance violation.

“Speaker Fox has been extremely busy entering the final two weeks of the session, but he will soon be checking the campaign records from five years ago,” Fox spokesman Larry Berman told GoLocalProv on June 4. “If corrections are necessary to the report, he will make them.”

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Fox and Corso

38 Studios Insiders Have Been Connected Since May 2009

The lawyer at the center of the deal that brought Curt Schilling’s 38 Studios to Rhode Island had a business relationship with a top executive at the video game company a year before a piece of legislation that expanded the EDC’s Job Creation Guaranty Program was pushed rapidly through the General Assembly.

On May 29, 2009, Michael Corso, a top tax credit broker whose relationship with House Speaker Gordon Fox helped steer 38 Studios to the Ocean State, struck a deal to purchase credits handed out for the multi-million dollar Stone House hotel project in Little Compton from the Round Pond Management Corporation, whose President was Tom Zaccagnino.

 

By June of that year, Zaccagnino, who was also the co-managing director at the Wellesley Advisors Corporation in Maynard, MA, had become Vice Chairman and Lead Director of 38 Studios. A month later, Haymarket Capital, an LLC with the same address as the Wellesley Advisors Corporation, was involved with the seven-figure bridge loan a group of Rhode Island investors provided to 38 Studios.

In March of 2010, Zaccagnino and Schilling met with Speaker Fox and former EDC director Keith Stokes in Corso’s downtown law office. By May, the General Assembly had expanded the EDC’s loan guarantee fund from $50 million to $125 million, the exact amount the EDC awarded to 38 Studios later that summer.

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Crony's Bar

38 Studios Contractor Ordered to Install Equipment in Fox’s Crony’s Bar

 
A former subcontractor for 38 Studios is alleging that his firm was ordered to work on former Speaker of the House Gordon Fox's business colleague Michael Corso's bar as part of their contract - and has produced what he says is documentation to prove it.
 
Project manager Michael Rossi with SyNet, Inc. has revealed a budget for work which he says shows at $25,000 line item for work to be done at Corso's Tazza Cafe in 2011 -- under a job order for the failed 38 Studios.
Warwick-based SyNet bills itself as "the premier design-build low voltage contractor of structured cabling, access control, surveillance and audio visual systems in the Northeast."
 
Representative Mike Chippendale, Senior Deputy Minority Leader and Secretary of House Oversight who is leading the investigation into 38 Studios along with Rep. Karen MacBeth, told GoLocal, "[Rossi] has hit a number of things on the head, things he wouldn't have been able to have known otherwise. He was able to validate some things, and the State Police has said they have determined the [budget] document has credibility."
"We're moving in the right direction," said Chipendale, who along with Macbeth have both been the target of mail threats in the past month. "We've kicked the hornets' nest."
 
Rossi said when he was working at SyNet, he was aware the 38 Studios work could be a possibility. "When my boss called me to say we got the project, that I was going to oversee the [network infrastructure] work, I thought, "Wow...38 Studios. This is big."
 
"As soon as I started working, they told me to order cable right away," continued Rossi. "I didn't have a permit. Arguments went back and forth. I walk out, I say I don't have a budget, I'm not doing it. I get berated by my boss to get back on the job. Next day, I get the budget, I'm back on the site -- and there are walls up already, with no permits pulled."
 
A portion of the SyNet 38 Studios budget document with a line item for work on Corso's Tazza bar and restaurant.
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Galasso

Rhode Island Cartoonist Takes Aim on Fox and Corso

In the midst of Gordon Fox's 2012 re-election effort, he distanced himself from his longtime friend, Mike Corso.

Rhode Island's iconic catoonist took aim at Fox's claim and artfully tied Corso and Fox together.

 
 

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