Wired: 1980 to 1992, a Book by Paul F. Caranci

Monday, March 27, 2017

 

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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

1980

OUR FIRST HOUSE AND A NEIGHBORHOOD SURPRISE

 

Since our wedding Margie and I had been living in an apartment that we prepared in my parent's basement. It was a cozy 4-room setup with a bedroom, den, kitchen and an office/library. It was perfect for the two of us, but wasn't enough space to consider raising a family. On Tuesday, January 29, 1980, Margie and I closed escrow on the purchase of our new home, a peeling gray 1902 classic Victorian on East Avenue. Aside from the small 3,200 sf lot, it was exactly what we wanted - an ornate turn-of-the-century Victorian with a two-story turret and plenty of room to grow a family. It needed a total makeover, but we were young and willing to do the work. What we lacked in money, we made up in imagination, work ethic and determination. The location of the property also satisfied my requirement of remaining a resident of Council District 1, allowing me to continue my efforts to run for the Town Council seat. In addition to all the cosmetic work required to make the house “livable,” it also needed conversion from the current two-family to the former one-family home that it had originally been in order to satisfy the condition of the mortgage. The house was in such deplorable condition at the time of closing that my mother broke down into tears upon seeing it. She couldn’t understand how we would pay $35,000 for something in need of so much work. But for Margie and me the house represented a new beginning, an opportunity to make it on our own and start a new family. It was perfect! 

When we first viewed the house with the Realtor in October 1979 there was a vacant lot next door. We thought that maybe one day we would be able to purchase the lot providing adequate yard space for our anticipated family. By the time we moved into our home in February 1980 however, a house had been moved from its Smith Street location about a block away, onto that vacant lot. 

Several days later, as I emerged from my front door, I saw Sal Mancini walking down the steps of the new house next door. What are you doing there?, we said simultaneously apparently sharing the same disbelief at what we were seeing. “I live here,” we each responded. “Great,” I thought, “the one guy that wants to hurt me more than any other living person in the world is going to be my next-door neighbor!” 

Mancini turned out to be a pretty good neighbor in some respects and a nightmare in others. As spring approached he purchased some azaleas to plant in his garden but wound up with a few too many. He offered to give them to me. That was a pleasant surprise since we couldn’t afford to landscape our own yard just yet. Later that same spring however, the town’s minimum housing inspector issued a citation ordering us to paint our house within 30 days or face a court appearance and fine. Our plan to spend the balance of the summer scraping and painting our new home was trashed and Margie was forced to cash in a small pension fund she had in order to secure the money needed to comply with the order.

Preparing to Run for Town Council

On the political front, I spent much of the winter preparing voter cards of each of the approximately 8,000 voters in my district. The 5X7 index cards listed the street address and the name of each voter at the address. Next to each name was a 1-5 ranking, the phone number and a place for notes including whether or not that person voted in previous elections. These were the days before personal computers and computer programs that could accomplish this objective in a far less laborious fashion, but organization has always been one of my strengths and this was a uniquely organized system for its day. I completed a card for every residential dwelling in Council District 1 and organized them alphabetically by street and then numerically by house number. I completed a draft brochure and planned a formal announcement of my intentions to seek the Council District 1 seat. The announcement was scheduled for June 5, 1980 at Julio’s Family Restaurant, a popular local establishment owned by friends. By May 29th I had already mailed 180 invitations and had RSVPs from about 75 people. Another fundraiser was planned, my fourth since deciding to run. 

Everything was in place when the June 3rd call came from Matt Smith. “Paul,” he said with a sense of urgency in his voice, 

“you need to make whatever concession Sal wants of you to make this issue go away. I’ve been getting heat from Rocco [Quatrocci – the Democrat Party Chairman], [State Representative and Corporations Committee Chairman] Aldo [Freda] and [Lt. Governor Tom] DiLuglio. Aldo is going to call for a vote to fire you at the next Solid Waste Board meeting. I’ve already taken too much shit over this thing. I have two North Providence Reps and a new one coming in and I need their support to keep the House together.” 

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My heart sank in my chest and so many thoughts flooded my mind. I felt invincible just hours ago and now everything seemed to be falling apart.

Looking for advice, I called Judge Powers. He said that he would stand up in open session of the RISWMC’s meeting of the Board of Directors and proclaim that a vote was being taken to fire me for persisting in a Council campaign against one of Sal’s candidates. In the final analysis however, he could no longer guarantee that the vote would be in my favor. He said he polled the members and it appeared the vote would be 4-4 with Mayor Lynch holding the deciding vote. The mayor told the Judge that while he didn’t want to fire me, if it came to a vote, he wouldn’t oppose Sal. “As distasteful as it is, you have to decide,” the Judge said. “If you can’t afford to lose your job over this then you need to reconsider your decision to run for office.”

With a new home and a child on the way, losing my job wasn’t even an option. I called Frank and Doc and within minutes they were at my door. When I broke the news they stared in stunned silence for a while. They seemed to be taking the news harder than I had, or maybe I just had more time for it to sink in. As we talked about what to do next our hopes and dreams seemed to go up in flame. 

Almost instinctively a very upset Anzeveno proclaimed, “Well they can’t do anything to me, maybe I’ll run.” A senior at Rhode Island College, Frank had the least political experience of the three of us. What he did have, however, was a sterling reputation as a good person who spent much of his free time coaching the area youth and refereeing basketball. He had a tremendous following among the youth and was well respected by their parents. In our disappointment, we developed a new plan.

Anzeveno for Representative

By the end of June 1980, Frank made his decision to run, not for Town Council, but for state representative against incumbent Robert “Bob” Sweeney, the second most senior member of the House and the Chairman of the powerful R.I. Lottery Commission. Doc and I thought he was insane and tried our best to dissuade him, but Frank was insistent and naturally we would support him enthusiastically. Fortunately, much of Representative District 70 and Council District 1 overlapped meaning that we already had the voting cards and much of the organization in place. I immediately went to work preparing voter cards for those homes that were not part of Council District 1. Unlike other opposition candidates who canvassed the district, we knew who lived at a house before they answered the door giving us an opportunity to be more personal and politically cunning in the greeting. 

Sweeney didn’t take Frank’s candidacy seriously. He did make the “obligatory” call asking Frank to withdraw from the race. “I’ll make you President of the North Providence Young Democrats,” Sweeney offered not realizing that Frank was already the group’s president. For most weekends of the election season Sweeney walked the beach at Sand Hill Cove while Frank pounded the pavement of Rep. District 70. 

By the time he realized the seriousness of Anzeveno’s candidacy, Sweeney’s hold on the district had slipped away. Frank defeated him soundly in the Democrat Primary winning not only every polling place, but also every voting machine in the district except one that was in the heart of Sweeney’s neighborhood. In that one they tied. 

In a reversal of political direction as well as fortune, Frank called Sal Mancini, Speaker Smith, Joe DeAngelus (the House Majority Leader, not the former candidate against Dick Fossa) and Rocco Quattrocci expressing his desire to work with the leadership. Frank was unopposed in the General Election, but still stunned political observes as he was the highest vote getter in the State among House candidates. His ability to work harmoniously with the leadership helped Frank achieve success in promoting and/or opposing legislation. It also apparently helped me. In a meeting with Matt Smith, the Speaker told Frank that, “Since I was previously screwed, I could now run for Town Council with his blessing.” Finally, the political green light I needed. I would now be able to both run for a seat on the Town Council and keep my job.

1981-1992

RUNNING FOR COUNCIL – RAISING A FAMILY – RUNNING FOR COUNCIL

Margie and I began our family in 1981 with the April birth of our daughter Heather. Our son Matthew joined us in 1982 completing our family. My quest for political office however did not go as smoothly. It continued with an unsuccessful run for the District 1 Town Council seat in 1984 followed by unsuccessful campaigns in 1986 and again in 1992. I ranked a close third in contests won by the top two vote-getters. In each of those elections I opposed incumbent candidates enjoying the support of Mancini in the heart of his stronghold – District 1. Some people were amused that Sal and I could be cordial neighbors but intense political adversaries. I wasn’t amused. I was frustrated. All the other anti-establishment candidates with whom I shared a ticket in those elections enjoyed victories; Anzeveno was elected State Representative, while the council-at-large seat went to Dick Fossa, the Council District 2 seats to Charlie Lombardi and Ralph Mollis, and the District 3 Council seats to Joe Cardello and Frank Pontarelli, all political allies. Subsequent elections would hold victories for additional political allies. Doc Corvese won a District 2 school committee seat and then election to the general assembly, Frank Giammarco took office as a councilman from District 3 and John Sisto won election to the town council from District 2. I, however, was running  in Sal’s home district and therefore was the only candidate opposing Sal for whom victory would remain elusive. 

Council District 1 was the point where Sal first began his own insurgent campaign in 1962 and in that part of town, the Village of Centredale, he had just performed far too many favors over the years to make him vulnerable. His core group of supporters and loyalists lived there. They included, among others, such local political luminaries as John Rhude, Frank Iafrate, Peter “Lucky” Marratta, Paul Garzone, Richard and Charlie Shadoian, Pasco Ratio, John Murphy, Eddie DiGiulio, Danny DiBaptista, and so many others that counted themselves among Sal's close friends and political allies. Sal’s District 1 supporters were all-too-willing to support any candidate that Sal suggested they should. 

Risking My Life

Aside from my political losses of 1984 and 1986, the 80’s proved for me to be a relatively low-key decade politically. There is one interesting anecdotal story from the 1984 campaign worthy of note however because it is interesting and demonstrates just how accurate my campaign message of abuse of power was. 

North Providence had a municipal landfill. This meant that the Town had the luxury of avoiding the $32.00 per ton solid waste disposal fee imposed on other municipalities that had to utilize the disposal services offered by the Solid Waste Management Corporation at the State’s Central Landfill in Johnston. Clearly, space at the North Providence landfill was a valuable town resource and disposal of any commercial waste, or municipal waste generated from outside the town, was prohibited under Rhode Island General Law as a means of preserving that resource for the town residents. I knew, however, that this law was constantly violated and suspected that the mayor might be allowing the abuse to occur for his own political enrichment. As an employee of the Rhode Island Solid Waste Management Corporation, the quasi-public agency that owned and operated the State Central Landfill, I knew what to look for to prove my point. The rear-loading garbage trucks that collect municipal waste curbside could never be mistaken for the top-loading vehicles that are used to collect commercial waste from dumpsters both inside and outside of the town’s borders. Therefore, presence of virtually any top-loading vehicle dumping its contents at the local landfill would prove a violation of state law.

Throughout the campaign I accused the Mancini Administration of exploiting this law by allowing out-of-town waste and commercial waste to be dumped at the town landfill at great financial and environmental peril to the people of the town. I, in turn, was accused of being a malcontent who fabricated stories to get a headline. I knew that I would have to prove the accusation both to vindicate myself and to stop the abuse. To do that, however, I would have to catch the violators in the act of collecting commercial and/or out-of-town waste and then disposing of it in the municipal landfill.

On a cold January morning in 1984, I arranged for Greg Smith, the Providence Journal reporter assigned to cover North Providence news, to meet me at 6:00 A.M. so as to witness the illegal dumping first hand. I waited for Smith to arrive, but he did not. The waste truck did however and I followed it as it collected commercial waste and headed for the town’s landfill. It is still dark at 6:00 in the morning during the winter months and the driver apparently noticed that one of the only sets of headlights on the road was following him.He stopped the truck short of its destination, reached for a club that was behind his seat and headed toward my car. Through my closed window he yelled, “Stop following me or I’ll beat your fucking brains out.” I did what any other self-respecting Council candidate would have done at that point - I high-tailed it out of there! 

While I still had no actual proof of the illegal dumping, I was convinced it was happening. But without hard evidence the issue died without much fanfare.

Around the same time Gerlado Mastrocchio, Sr. of Providence and Joseph E. Olivo of Cranston were involved in a narcotics ring in the State’s Capital City of Providence. Mastrocchio knew the police were closing in. He also believed that if nabbed, Olivo would snitch and tell of previous crimes that had been committed, including one murder committed by Olivo himself. The paranoia got the best of him. On Valentine’s Day 1984, Mastrocchio, according to police reports, “executed Olivo with a gunshot blast to the head. Then, with two accomplices, he cut Olivo into pieces with a chainsaw and scattered the remains in Providence dumpsters.”  

About a month later, “Olivo’s shredded torso was unearthed by police detectives digging in the North Providence landfill” on Smithfield Road. According to reports written by Providence Journal investigative reporter C.J. Chivers, “town officials and local engineers began asking a simple question: If the landfill accepted garbage only from the town, how did the contents of a dumpster from Providence, which included Olivo’s remains, end up in the Smithfield Road site?” By the time the story appeared in the newspaper on July 25, 1995, Mastrocchio was behind bars and a series of civil actions had forced the closure of the municipal landfill. Town officials referred to the operation and the twisted history of the site as a joke. For me, it was vindication! Running for a Town Council seat is not generally considered a hazardous venture, but being right on this issue could have gotten me killed!

Fortunately I was still alive and well enough to run again in 1986 and 1992. But losing, I soon found out, is not fun. After each loss I experienced the political anguish that comes from being “out of the loop.” The significance of the old political adage, “When you’re out, you’re out,” was never more evident. I was no longer invited to strategy meetings. I wasn’t afforded the opportunity to decide on and grant appointments, control the agenda, make decisions, march in parades, and speak at events. Worst of all, I wasn’t able to make a difference.

Running a Different Type of Race

What the losses did afford me was a lot more spare time. Not being a candidate for political office between the years 1986 and 1992 left more time for me to relax and devote to my family. The political hiatus could not have come at a more critical time. In October 1988, my son Matt was diagnosed with insulin dependent diabetes. The news hit Margie and me like the thrust from a Saturn V Rocket. How do you tell a 5 ½ year old child, just 3 weeks before Halloween, that he can't eat candy and will need to suffer the pain of routine finger pricks to check his blood glucose level, and inject insulin every day, maybe more than once a day, for the rest of his life? Worse, how do we treat a small child for diabetes? How will it impact the rest of our family? Can we handle it? Do we have what it takes to overcome our own fears and provide comfort and proper care for our small child? Over the course of the next year we immersed ourselves in the reading of everything we could get our hands on about the disease. We worked with Dr. Phil Grapusso and an incredible medical team from Hasbro Children's Hospital where we became something of a fixture. 

Once we grew more comfortable with the care of a child with diabetes, we had a strong desire to do something to help the cause, perhaps raise money that could be used toward finding a cure. 

Margie, and our friend, Donna Melikian, started a running program in late spring of 1989. They were able to run about 1 mile when another mutual friend and avid runner, Cindy Emery, convinced the pair that she could train them to run a marathon as a means of raising money for the cause. Cindy was an accomplished recreational runner who had completed several marathons and Margie and Donna jumped at the chance to train with her. Well that was a challenge that this couch potato couldn't pass up. I always admired those who could run over 26 miles non-stop, and though I had not run a single step since high school, I wasted no time in informing them that if they were going to train for a marathon, I wanted in. 

In those first days of training I couldn't run ½ mile without stopping. Margie and Donna had already been running a mile and consequently had no trouble with the initial training distance. They began to create distance between us after just the first half mile of every run and I seldom caught up regardless how hard I tried. My fruitless efforts to keep up and the physical stress it caused me led me to joke in my training log that they were conspiring to kill me for the insurance money! 

In just 6 short months however, on November 1, 1989, we competed in the Ocean State Marathon in Newport. Our finishing time was an amazingly slow 5 hours, 20 minutes and 1 second, but we accomplished all our goals. We finished with the clock running; we didn't finish last; and we raised over $2,000 in pledges that we donated to the Rhode Island Affiliate of the American Diabetes Association. 

Running became a passion for us. We continued to run every day after that through 1994-95. We started a running club and through it, made many lasting friendships. Over the course of the next 4 years we ran a road race virtually every weekend. We kept daily running logs, many times running twice a day for a total of 10 miles a day. A typical week would include about 60 miles of running in all kinds of weather that culminated with a weekend road race somewhere in the Country. Over the course of that time I completed 5 marathons that included two Ocean State Marathons in Rhode Island, two Boston Marathons in Massachusetts, and one Marine Corps Marathon in Washington DC. My personal best finishing time was 3:53:37, which I achieved in the 1993 Ocean State Marathon. I was now in excellent physical condition and possessed an emotional strength that prepared me for any challenge. As it turned out I would need both.

 

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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.

 

Related Slideshow: Rhode Island’s History of Political Corruption

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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. 

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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...

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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. 

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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.

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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.

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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. 

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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. 

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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.

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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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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. 

Fox pled guilty to 3 criminal counts on March 3, 2015 - accepting a bribe, wire fraud, and filing a false tax return. The plea deal reached with the US Attorney's office calls for 3 years in federal prison, but Fox will be officially sentenced on June 11.

 
 

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