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State Report: Embezzlement Sentencing, Sex Trafficking Bill + More

Saturday, April 12, 2014


This week’s State Report centers on a former Central Falls clerk who pleaded guilty to embezzlement earlier this week. In addition to embezzlement sentencing, we’ll also look a legislation addressing a variety of topics, including sex trafficking, automotive taxes, and specialty license plates. Also on the docket are House appointments and the Clean Energy Champion Awards.

City Clerk Pleads Guilty to Embezzlement

Earlier this week, a former Central Falls collections clerk pleaded no contest to a charge of embezzling $17,000 and was sentenced to home confinement.

According to Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin, Joyce Tager, 54, pled nolo contendere on Monday before Superior Court Justice Jeffrey A. Lanphear to one count of wrongful conversion by a state or municipal employee. Tager was sentenced to three years, with six months to serve in home confinement and the remainder suspended with probation. In accordance with the plea agreement, Tager paid full restitution at the time of her plea of $17,000, of which $10,822.27 was paid from her pension fund. She also agreed to have her pension benefits revoked.

According to the Attorney General's Office, Tager received the money from the Municipal Court Clerk, destroyed the records of the transfer and converted the cash to her own use.

"Public corruption can happen at all levels of government, and will not be tolerated by my office," said Attorney General Kilmartin. "What makes this act more egregious is the financial strain the City of Central Falls was operating under at the time Ms. Tager lined her pockets with thousands of dollars that could have been put towards critical city services."

Rhode Island State Police Sergeant Joseph DuBeau and Trooper Mark Alboum led the investigation and Special Assistant Attorney General Emily Maranjian prosecuted the case on behalf of the Office of Attorney General.

In March, a former Cumberland Fire District Tax Collector Karen B. Lambert was arrested for the alleged embezzlement of over $84,000 in funds from the Cumberland Fire District and a Woonsocket property management company.

For more political news from the past week, check out the slideshow below.


Related Slideshow: RI State Report: More News of the Week - 4/12/14

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House OKs Sex Trafficking Bill

The House of Representatives has approved legislation sponored by Rep. Doreen Costa (R-Dist. 31, North Kingstown, Exeter) that will increase the penalties for sex trafficking of a minor from 40 years of imprisonment to 50 years and also incrase the penalties for obstruction or interference with enforcement of sex traffacking laws from 20 years to 35 years in prison. It also hikes the fine from $20,000 to $40,000.

“Rhode Island criminalized human trafficking in 2009.  That is just five short years ago. Think about that! Together we have taken the next step to stand up for the victims of sex trafficking in our state by strengthening our laws,” said Rep. Costa.

“Jail time for these sexual predators has changed from 40 to 50 years. Anyone found guilty of interfering with or obstructing enforcement of sex trafficking laws will now face 35 years of imprisonment rather than 20 years and the fine has increased from $20,000 to $40,000.”

“These people don’t belong on our streets. You know it, I know it and now they know it. We will not stop until we are safe from one of the most horrific crimes against kids and adults.”

“Consider the nightmare of being taken against your will by a sex predator, to be forced into that dark, scary world with no where to turn. We have many voices in our state who speak out for victims but they don’t always get the support or the headlines that they deserve for their heart wrenching work.”

“I hope that by bringing this horrific criminal activity back to the forefront that more people will consider volunteering to help victims move forward with their lives.”

“Along with my colleagues in the House, my bill had the support of State Police Superintendent Col. Stephen G. O’Donnell, Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin and the Rhode Island Brotherhood of Correctional Officers, and I thank them for that.”

The bill (2014- H7916) now goes to the Senate for consideration.

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Auto Valuation Amendment      

In an effort to reduce the burden of the state’s auto tax bill, Sen. William A. Walaska (D-Dist. 30, Warwick) has introduced legislation that would assess vehicles based on the average trade-in price, rather than clean retail value.

“Just because auto owners have gotten used to a higher bill during the past few years does not make things right. With the elimination of the excise tax exemption at the state level, some communities saw an open door to grabbing more money from their residents,” said Sen. Walaska. “Instead of gouging their residents, they should have been looking for ways to make the hike as painless as possible.”

The Walaska legislation, 2014-S 2203, would allow for an appeal process on municipal excise tax valuations that permits the auto owner to present to the tax assessor a certified appraisal from a licensed motor vehicle dealer of the actual value of the car. The bill would also allow 45 days for vehicle owners to file an appeal of a tax bill, compared to the 30 provided in current law.

“State residents pay a lot of taxes, and this is just one extra burden that’s been added on over the last few years,” said Senator Walaska. “I think amending the assessment method will ease the expense for many people. I don’t think Rhode Islanders mind paying taxes, if they are fair. My legislation is all about making this tax fair.”

The bill is before the Senate Committee on Finance.

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Lawmakers Named ‘Clean Energy Champions’

Four state lawmakers each received the Clean Energy Champion Award on Tuesday from the New England Clean Energy Council (NECEC) for their push to expand renewable energy industry opportunities in Rhode Island.

The NECEC, which serves as a voice for hundreds of clean energy companies across New England, recognized Rhode Island Senators V. Susan Sosnowski (D-Dist. 37, South Kingstown, New Shoreham) and William A. Walaska (D-Dist. 30, Warwick), as well as House Environment and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Arthur Handy (D-Dist. 18, Cranston) and Rep. Deborah Ruggiero (D-Dist. 74, Jamestown, Middletown), for their tenacious leadership in the legislative arena at the Rhode Island Foundation today. This honor is presented to legislators who have “consistently taken the lead in advancing clean energy in Rhode Island,” according to the NECEC.

Through their work in the Senate Environment & Agriculture Committee, Chairwoman Sosnowski and Vice Chairman Walaska have been instrumental in leading legislation to expand local renewable energy generation, advance farm energy opportunities and increase the use of biofuels in home heating.

The council also honored Representative Handy, who as chairman of the House Environment & Natural Resources Committee sponsored legislation related to Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE), the distributed generation program and greenhouse gas mitigation.

The fourth lawmaker to be recognized was Representative Ruggiero, who has been a champion of bringing renewable energy benefits to Rhode Island through her sponsorship of the distributed generation program and the residential renewable energy tax credit.

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Morin Appointed to Corporations Committee

Rep. Michael Morin has been appointed to the House Corporations Committee by House Speaker Nicholas A. Mattiello.

The Corporations Committee considers issues relating to financial institutions, business regulation, property and casualty insurance and consumer protection.
Representative Morin (D-Dist. 49, Woonsocket) will also continue to serve as a member of the Health, Education and Welfare Committee and the Small Business Committee, to which he was previously appointed.

The Health, Education and Welfare Committee handles matters relating to the health care system, public education, human services and children and families. The Small Business Committee handles legislation of interest to the state’s small business community.

Rep. Morin was elected Feb. 25 to replace former representative Lisa Baldelli-Hunt.

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Bruins License Plates

In 2011, the Bruins brought home the Stanley Cup and joined their fellow New England franchises in their recent reign of national championships.

Under legislation sponsored by Senate Majority Whip Maryellen Goodwin and approved by the Senate Tuesday, they could also join the ranks of New England teams whose logos Rhode Islanders can sport on their license plates.

The legislation (2014-S 2555) would create a new specialty plate for the Boston Bruins Foundation, the Bruins charitable foundation dedicated to supporting organizations that promote athletic activities, academics, health and outreach in the community.

Rhode Island already offers similar plates benefiting the charitable organizations of the Patriots and the Red Sox, which have proven popular.

“Rhode Islanders are passionate about rooting for their teams, and they’re nearly as passionate about their license plates. Rhode Island drivers love to have plates that tell people who they are, and many fans be excited to have the opportunity to show their pride in the Bruins,” said Senator Goodwin (D-Dist. 1, Providence). “At the same time, fans who order these plates will support organizations that do great work in their communities.”

The plates will initially cost drivers an extra $40, which will be split evenly between the state and the Boston Bruins Foundation. Under the bill, the foundation must use the money to benefit Rhode Island-based charitable organizations. Subsequent renewals of the plates will be subject to a $10 surcharge, all of which will go to the foundation.

Under the bill, the plates would not be issued until the state has a minimum of 900 pre-paid orders for any plate type, whether passenger, commercial or other.

The legislation will now be sent to the House of Representatives.


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