Old Wounds: Coloian Blasts Police Informer Collins Over Influence in Providence Police

Sunday, November 26, 2017


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Providence Attorney Artin Colian

Providence lawyer and Chief-of-Staff to former Mayor Vincent "Buddy" Cianci, Artin Coloian, blasted bail bondsman and Providence Police informant Wayne David Collins over comments made by Collins about corruption in the Providence Police Department during the tenure of recently-passed former Providence Police Chief Urbano Prignano, Jr.

Prignano was close to Collins. Some say too close. A report conducted by then-Mayor David Cicilline’s administration found a range of improprieties at the Providence Police department.

Old wounds sometimes don’t heal. The battle over the legacy of the Providence Police and corruption in the department has gone on for nearly two decades ago and it exploded after the death of former Chief Prignano was announced.

The Report Unveils Prignano and Collins Ties

The report titled, “PROVIDENCE POLICE DEPARTMENT TESTING INVESTIGATION” starts off, “On January 31, 2003, Colonel Dean Esserman assembled a team of investigators from the Providence Police Department, as well investigative consultants from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the United States Attorney and the Rhode Island Department of Attorney General, to investigate the department's promotional cheating scandal.”

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Recently deceased, former Providence Police Chief Prignano

The 59-page report found that the Department had a sweeping array of problems including heavy-handed influencing by the Cianci City Hall to a twisted relationship between Prignano and Collins.

The report stated, “…Wayne David Collins was a close personal friend of (then) Colonel Urbano Prignano. Information indicates that Wayne David Collins had full access to the police department, which included the door keypad code for the intelligence bureau. Additionally, information indicates that on one occasion prior to the 1997 exam for Sergeant, Collins told a candidate that he/she would not make the list. Subsequently, that individual did not make the original list of 10.”

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Investigation - section on Wayne David Collins

“I will say, though, that even as a relatively young prosecutor at the time, it was plain to me that the allegations regarding cheating in connection with the promotional exams were extremely troubling, and unquestionably had an adverse impact on morale within the Department,” said former U.S. Attorney and now candidate for RI Attorney General Peter Neronha.

“No organization can long withstand a situation where the rank and file questions how their leaders came to be leaders in the first place, and where other seemingly deserving individuals were denied a fair opportunity for advancement.  During my twenty-plus years in law enforcement, this situation, to me, was the low point of the Providence Police Department, and its effects hung over the Department for many years,” said Neronha.

Coloian said much of City Hall’s contact with Prignano was tied to concerns about Collins’ influencing the Police Department. “Collins had unfettered access to everything in the Police Department. He even had access to the evidence room when cocaine was stolen.”

A 2012 article in the Broward/Palm Beach New Times raised questions about Collins' ties to the local candidate for Sheriff:

“Chumming around with bail bondsmen has earned Israel (candidate for Sheriff) criticism in the past. During the 2008 election, in which he unsuccessfully challenged Al Lamberti, he took $500 from a bail bond agent named Wayne David Collins. Collins, arguably the most powerful bondsman in South Florida, had gotten in trouble with the law in the '80s for throwing around his influence in the Mob town of Providence, Rhode Island. He had his criminal record expunged so he could get a bail bondsman's license.”

Efforts to reach Collins for this article were unsuccessful.

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Former U.S. Attorney Peter Neronha - now candidate for RI Attorney General

Collins Defends Prignano

GateHouse Media’s Providence Journal reported on Wednesday:

“Barney Prignano wasn’t perfect,” Collins said. “He was put in a position that he was in over his head. He was a loyal person, and he did what he was told to do.”

Collins blamed pressure from City Hall, and said Prignano was caught between Corrente and Cianci’s top aide, lawyer Artin H. Coloian. (Coloian was indicted and then acquitted of federal corruption charges in Operation Plunder Dome.)

“Collin’s access to Prignano and to the Department was inappropriate and it allowed Collins to perpetuate his proclivities,” said Coloian.

Two Decades of Charges and Counter Charges

The Providence Police controversies are now two-decades-old. The black-eye, and subsequent investigation involved a proverbial who’s who of the legal and political world. Today, the alumni of the investigation into the Providence Police Department include now U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (then RI Attorney General), U.S. Congressman David Cicilline (then Mayor of Providence), and Neronha (served in both the Attorney General’s office and U.S. Attorney’s Office in RI).

“As the report indicates, and as I clearly recall, I was assigned to the investigation of alleged cheating in connection with Providence Police promotion exams, by then-Attorney General Sheldon Whitehouse. I worked on that matter with then Criminal Chief William Ferland and Investigator William Sharkey (a former IRS Agent), until I left the office to become an Assistant United States Attorney on December 1, 2002,” said Neronha.

“The report indicates that the investigation continued at the Attorney General’s office beyond my departure, and that makes sense based on what I recall.  I was not involved in the state investigation once I became an AUSA, nor was I involved in any investigation by the U.S. Attorney’s office into the examinations, which the report makes reference to, once I arrived there,” added Neronha. 

The report stated:

"June 11, 2002: In an interoffice memorandum, William Ferland relates to Whitehouse that since January (2002) over twenty formal interviews were conducted and numerous witnesses were brought before the grand jury regarding the promotional exams. The memo refers to the May 13th testimony of Prignano relative to him sharing pre-exam material with several candidates. On June 5th Prignano was subpoenaed to the grand jury. Prignano refused to testify taking the fifth. Ferland states that he and Neronha believe that those persons that were promoted and cheated on the exam were obtaining money under false pretenses. The memo goes on to express the need for persons to come forward and testify. It was discussed between Neronha and Ferland to grant transactional immunity to Prignano, believing that the investigative benefits outweigh risks and drawbacks. Drawbacks would be that Prignano could not be held accountable.”

Now, some of the events are two decades old and the final investigations are 15-years past. With Prignano’s recent death and Cianci’s passing in February of 2016, many of the contentious issues tied to some of Providence’s greatest scandals are dead.

According to Esserman’s report, “On October 4, 2000, Prignano revealed irregularities in the promotional process to the FBI. During this interview, Prignano stated that Frank Corrente, the Director of Administration under Mayor Cianci, had complete access to the Providence Police Department.”

About Collins, Coloian says, “[Prignano], his close friend and someone he says he loves and is a father figure to him, passes away. And he [Collins] uses it as an opportunity to take a cheap shot.” 


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