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Fox Scandal: First Time State House Raided in RI History

Saturday, March 22, 2014


It was a dark day in Rhode Island's history as the State House was raided by federal and state law enforcement officials for the very first time.

On Friday, a contingent of dozens of State Police officers, as well as Federal Bureau of Investigation and Internal Revenue Service officers swept into the iconic Rhode Island Capitol to raid files of the Speaker of the House - Gordon Fox.

First State House Raid

"I've been around 27 years. We've arrested people at the State House, but I can't remember something like this before," said Rhode Island State Police Colonel Steve O’Donnell.

State Librarian Tom Evans, who has been working at the State House for 26 years, affirmed, “State policemen have only been in the State House to interview for investigations and such in the past, not to raid an office.”

The state police have only ever been called to the State House on one occasion, which was during the Bloodless Revolution on New Year’s Day of 1935. In what remains one of the most significant power transfers in history, Governor Theodore Francis Green led the Democratic Party in seizing the Senate from Republicans. Green called in 20 state troopers to guard the doors of the Senate chamber so that no Republicans would be able to escape and leave the Democrats with a quorum – which is the minimum number of members in a deliberative assembly necessary to conduct business.

According to Dr. Patrick Conley, an expert on Rhode Island history, "There's no record of the state - or certainly the federal - authorities invading the State House."

GOP, Dems Battled in Past

Back in the 1920's there was the use of State Police in the State House during a political battle between Republicans and Democrats.

“The irony of it all is that the Republicans used force to keep the Democrats in check only about ten years before then,” said Dr. Conley, the Historian Laureate of Rhode Island. Republicans dropped a bromine gas bomb in the middle of a Democratic filibuster on June 19, 1924. No state police department existed at this point, so Lieutenant Governor Felix Toupin involved the Attorney General to order an issue of arrest for the Republicans who refused to show up and resume session after the gas had cleared.

In the events leading up to June 19, 1924, Toupin had not left the rostrum for 48 consecutive hours, having had food brought to him from restaurants and a device installed near his seat so that he could answer calls without ever moving from his chair.

The political battle of the 1920's and 1930'a stands in stark contrast to the investigation of political corruption on 2014 demonstrated this week by federal investigators.  "I'm not going to offer any comment at all, but to confirm the obvious, that there is a federal and state law enforcement presence at the State House in an ongoing law enforcement matter," said Jim Martin with the US Attorney's Office in Providence.

The raid of Speaker Fox office seems to set a new standard for both federal and state law enforcement reacting to Rhode Island political corruption.


Related Slideshow: Rhode Island’s History of Political Corruption

Prev Next

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. 

Prev Next

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...

Prev Next

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. 

Prev Next

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.

Prev Next

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.

Prev Next

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. 

Prev Next

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. 

Prev Next

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.

Prev Next

Gordon Fox

The Rhode Island State Police and FBI raided and sealed off the State House office of Speaker of the House Gordon Fox on March 21--marking the first time an office in the building has ever been raided. 

The details are still emerging, but the United States Attorney's Office for the District of Rhode Island has confirmed the IRS is involved in an ongoing investigation in Rhode Island.


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I'm having a vision of the State House being sold to the Federal Government to be used as a white collar crime prison, with visiting groups of school children rotating in as part of their lessons on how government functions.

Comment #1 by John McGrath on 2014 03 22

"Green called in 20 state troopers to guard the doors of the Senate chamber so that no Republicans would be able to escape and leave the Democrats with a quorum – which is the minimum number of members in a deliberative assembly necessary to conduct business."
You mean to say "without" a quorum

Comment #2 by Kevin McCarthy on 2014 03 22

Such an embarrassment. And yet, we keep voting in the same people.
We'll simply never learn.
We all KNOW there's corruption going on and yet, nobody cares.

Comment #3 by pearl fanch on 2014 03 22

So the story is the historic nature of a raid involving this building and NOT reporting or commentary on the individual in question or the issues that may have led to this?

Comment #4 by Dean Harrington on 2014 03 22

Nothing will come of it.

Comment #5 by paul zecchino on 2014 03 22

Thank God for the FBI and the R.I. State Police. If it wasn't for them we would never get rid of the corrupt politicians in this State, God knows the Rhode Island voters don't have the brains to do it!

Comment #6 by Joyce Bryant on 2014 03 22

Whenever its a big show by law enforcement or other political types, it often means just a little man behind the screen pulling levers. Full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

Comment #7 by bill bentley on 2014 03 22

"It was a dark day in Rhode Island's history as the State House was raided by federal and state law enforcement officials for the very first time."

It was a dark day when Speaker Fox took the rostrum. It's dark also because the Feds had to do it. Where was Peter Kilmartin in all of this? Killing time?

Actually, a little sunlight to expose the corruption is a good thing.

Comment #8 by Arthur Schaper on 2014 03 22

Why? ... One, the FBI has made municipal/state corruption its number one priority. Of course it has a huge case in Wisconsin, where big. big money may squash the case. So it looks good for the record to go after the small fry in a small fry state. ... Two, the feds/Justice Department are afraid to go after the big criminals at the big banks, so it looks good for the record to go after the small fry in small fry Rhode Island. ... Three, the scandal ridden, Irish dominated FBI office in Boston needs to distract people by going after small fry in places like RI. It gives off the scent of the glory days of breaking the Mafia in New England. ... All this, of course, does not mean that Fox is innocent. Just conveniently guilty.

Comment #9 by John McGrath on 2014 03 22

What were the discussions in '24 and '35?

Comment #10 by Wuggly Ump on 2014 03 23

Congratulations Gordon, you gave Rhode Island another first on the list of infamous happenings. Yep, we are real proud of you!

I realize that you are innocnet until proven guilty and we don't even know what this is all about yet but the FBI and the IRS doesn't get involved because you didn't pay a parking ticket. You were up to something big and I beileve you got caught. This time you won't be able to lie your way out of it like you have done in past skirmishes".

I just want to see how many other rats are going to abandon ship and go down as well.

Comment #11 by Robert Anthony on 2014 03 23

Arthur Schaper...

Kilmartin? Who is he? (chortle)

The FEDs probably left him in the dark purposely. Which in this state, is a good thing.

Comment #12 by Robert Anthony on 2014 03 23

RICO...Look how many times he got his wrists slapped in the last 22 years that he's been a 'civil servant'.

@ Arthur Schaper ... I believe Kilmartin was purposely left out of this so the feds could conduct a surprise raid. Let's face it, Peter is 'one of the good ol boys' and I believe, had he known of the raid before hand, so would Gorden Fox.

Comment #13 by RI Taxpayer on 2014 03 23

RI Taxpayer

Well said. That would be a good reason to leave Kilmartin out of it.

Comment #14 by Robert Anthony on 2014 03 23

While it is speculative about the underlying issue, it may well be the Providence loan program to give out loans to businesses that couldn't qualify for regular bank loans.

No matter who is Mayor, Governor, or Speaker, I don't think we can trust the RI political system to do this properly. There is just too much a who-you-know culture not based on sound economics and too much temptation to use it as a slush fund for your friends. And recalling Carcieri's fondness for Schilling (others form the GOP could be named too) it is a bi-partisan problem.

I think it might be better if instead of the government (city or state) trying to pick individual companies to subsidize, perhaps we could use those resources to reduce the burden on all businesses in a level playing field. But that is not easy when companies such as CVS with special breaks demand they keep them.

Comment #15 by barry schiller on 2014 03 23

If this was just posturing or a show of force with no substance,then why did Fox resign so fast?The attorney general apparently was kept out of the loop.Interesting.

Comment #16 by Joseph Bernstein on 2014 03 23

That's the point, conviction before conviction. It would have been a circus. Why not do it on Saturday when no one is around? Why do we even know it happened? Its part of the show to intimidate and garner public perception. Text book.

Comment #17 by bill bentley on 2014 03 23

It's always a dog and pony show when a political figure in RI gets indicted,arrested,or has a search warrant executed on thier palce of business or home.
A few years ago a state rep named McCauley had his business searched by the FBI and it was all over the media.McCauley was not nearly as major a figure as the Speaker.
The rush to replace him is like a Mafia movie minus the one way rides.
The Speakership has for few decades or more been like that ring in The Hobbit-it carries danger within it.Only Murphy left relatively intact.

Comment #18 by Joseph Bernstein on 2014 03 24

My typing is horrible-"their place".

Comment #19 by Joseph Bernstein on 2014 03 24

Did they get Taveras Yet.

Comment #20 by Jackson Teller on 2014 04 03

Commenting is not available in this channel entry.