Scammer Gave Over $250k to Top Pols: Will They Return the Cash?
Wednesday, November 21, 2012
The Cranston man who pleaded guilty this week to conspiring to steal the identities of terminally-ill patients to obtain millions of dollars from insurance companies and bond issuers was a major contributor to elected officials and candidates at both the local and national level. Now some of the state’s most powerful leaders are divided as to whether they’ll return those funds.
State and Federal campaign finance reports dating back to 2000 show Joseph Caramadre and his wife, Paula, contributed over $200,000 to politicians on both sides of the aisle, including former Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, Senators Sheldon Whitehouse and Jack Reed, Congressman James Langevin, former Governor Don Carcieri and Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal.
The Caramadres also contributed more than $250,000 to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, the House and Senate Victory Fund and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee over the past 12 years.
“The donations you are talking about occurred years ago and were used for their intended purpose in good faith with no knowledge of possible wrongdoing,” said Jonathon Dworkin, a spokesman for Langevin, who received over $15,000 from the Caramadres. “The campaign's long-standing policy is to move on and cut any ties with those who might be involved in misconduct.”
Still, at least one other member of the state’s Congressional delegation is expected to donate the funds contributed by the Caramadres to charity. While a spokesperson for newly re-elected Senator Sheldon Whitehouse did not return a request for comment Monday, Whitehouse made that commitment last when GoLocalProv first inquired about the contributions.
“The allegations against Mr. Caramadre are serious, and if he is found guilty Sheldon’s campaign will donate the money to charity,” Whitehouse spokesman Seth Larson said at the time.
Senator Reed’s office did not respond in time for publication.
Identity Theft & Wire Fraud
According to a press release issued by U.S. Attorney Peter Neronha, Caramadre and his business partner, Raymour Radhakrishnan, each pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit identity theft and wire fraud. Last November, the two were charged in a 66-count grand jury indictment.
The elaborate scheme involved locating terminally-ill individuals, including by visiting AIDS patients and finding family members and associates of the terminally-ill, and by soliciting individuals who were terminally ill to purchase small life insurance policies. Caramadre even took out an advertisement in a catholic newspaper stating that he would give $2,000 in cash to terminally-ill people.
Caramadre and Radhakrishnan would then use the names and social security numbers off dying individuals to obtain more than 200 variable annuities and to open more than 75 brokerage accounts in order to purchase “death-put" bonds in the victims’ names without their knowledge. When the person died, the two cashed in.
“Mr. Caramadre has made a decision that acceptance of this plea agreement is in his best interests and the best interests of his family,” Gregg Perry, a spokesman for Caramadre said Monday.
Common Cause Director: Donate the Money
But the majority of the cash donated by the Caramadres remains in question. Common Cause executive director John Marion said he believes the funds should be given to charity.
“Any politician who has received money from someone convicted of fraud should donate those funds to charity,” he said. “Not being a lawyer, I can't say whether or not those monies can be recovered and returned to victims.
Last year, State Rep. Michael Marcello (D-41), who received a $250 contribution from Caramadre, committed to donating the money to charity.
“Mr. Caramadre made a one-time donation to my 2008 campaign for State Representative,” Marcello said. “At the time, he was a resident of western Cranston which is part of District 41. Although my 2008 campaign is long over and he has not made any donations to any subsequent campaigns in any amount, in order to avoid any distractions in my efforts to represent the residents of my District, my campaign will make a donation to a local charity in the same amount of his initial pledge, $250.”
The contributions from the Caramadre family aren’t the only contributions elected officials and candidates have agreed to return in Rhode Island this year. Earlier this year, then-Republican Congressional candidate Brendan Doherty decided to return $1,000 to State Senator Frank Ciccone, who was accused of verbally abusing a police officer following a traffic incident.
Earlier this month, Governor Lincoln Chafee said he would return $2,450 in campaign contributions he received from an attorney and a law firm named in the 38 Studios lawsuit.