20 Amazing Facts About 38 Studios Debacle Unveiled in RISP Documents
Friday, March 03, 2017
GoLocalProv.com had filed a lawsuit in Superior Court asking for the release of the documents.
Now, the documents released raise questions about the investigation.
Nearly five years after the collapse of the gaming company almost $50 million (after legal fees) has been recovered, but no one has been prosecuted.
A review of the documents released found that there are numerous questionable, strange and uniquely Rhode Island elements.
Related Slideshow: 20 Amazing Facts About 38 Studios Debacle Unveiled in RISP Documents
State Police Did Few In-Person Interviews
Most of the interviews conducted by the Rhode Island State Police were conducted via phone.
According to leading defense attorneys in Rhode Island, this is very unusual.
Key interviews that were held via phone included Governor Don Carcieri, one of the interviews with House Finance Chair Steven Costantino, and former Speaker of the House Bill Murphy.
Carcieri Not Asked About Fox, Costantino or Corso
Carcieri was not asked in his interview with RISP about any discussions with then-Speaker Gordon Fox, House Finance Chair Steve Costantino or with any others associated with the deal.
Carcieri was not asked about Mike Corso who was the subject of the investigation.
Peter Kilmartin’s Interview NOT Released - or Not Conducted
Speaker of the House Gordon Fox’s interview was not released on Thursday.
Nor was former House Whip and now Attorney General Peter Kilmartin. He voted for the funding scheme for 38 Studios. It is unclear if he was interviewed.
In recent months, Governor Gina Raimondo has said that Kilmartin should not have conducted the investigation.
Nor was Mike Corso's interview - who was, for some period of time, the subject of the investigation.
Some of these interview documents may be tied to the Grand Jury.
Former RI Speaker Murphy Was Also Pitching Schilling to the Massachusetts Speaker
Former 38 Studios Board member Tom Zacagnino told RI State Police that he remembered Speaker Murphy "introducing Schilling to the Massachusetts Speaker of the House and stated that Murphy did not get compensated for this introduction. Zaccagnino beleives that Murphy did this only because of Curt Schilling’s star power.”
Zacagnino and Corso Went to Buff Chace for a Loan
Providence developer Buff Chace was approached by 38 Studios’s Tom Zaccagnino and Mike Corso for a bridge loan. “Zaccagnino and Corso went to Buff Chase/Cornish Associates/Zach Darrow in an attempt to secure a bridge loan until the anticipated tax credits were issued. they did not approve the loan.”
Chace owns much of the development on Westminster Street and is now redeveloping the Providence Journal building in partnership with a Boston development group. And, he is helping to lead the redevelopment of the Superman Building.
Corso Gets the Money from Movie Producer Brandt Andersen
According to the State Police interview with Tom Zacagnino, he and Corso approached movie producer Brandt Andersen after Buff Chace rejected their request for a bridge loan.
Andersen was the movie producer on Lone Survivor and dozens of other movies. He worked on movies with Gary Marshall, Martin Scorsese and Peter Berg. He and Corso were involved in productions together including, Lay the Favorite.
Andersen lent the two over $1.1 million.
Raimondo Refused to Call for a New Investigation
When asked on Thursday if Governor Gina Raimondo would ask for an independent investgation, her office issued the following statement:
Governor Raimondo opposed 38 Studios from the start and believes Rhode Islanders deserve a full accounting of all that is known about how the deal occurred. The Governor commends the Rhode Island State Police for releasing all non-grand jury records from the 38 Studios investigation. These documents tell only a portion of the story about the investigation – we still don’t know what the grand jury heard and saw. That is why the Governor has petitioned the court for the release of the grand jury records.
One Staffer Was Removed From EDC Review Team When He Asked Questions About 38 Studios
RI Economic Development Corporation supervisor Mike Saul took Sean Esten off the team for asking too many tough financial questions.
“It was Mike Saul specifically was the one who kind of started excluding me. But there was other people within the organization, like, Fred Hashway was deeply involved in a lot of the - negotiation of this and the - the discussion on this. They stopped communicating with me regarding it,” Esten told the State Police.
According to his 48-page interview, he raised numerous concerns about the viability and the size of the project.
Today, Esten works for Bank of America.
State Police Consistently Misspelled Governor Lincoln Chafee’s Name
Former Governor Lincoln Chafee’s name was often spelled with two f’s — Chaffee.
38 Studios founder Curt Schilling's name was often misspelled too - it appeared "Kurt" and "Shilling" in multiple references.
Hasbro Chair Verrecchia Not Asked About His Company's Relationship with EA
In 2007, Hasbro signed a major partnership agreement with Electronic Arts (EA) — an agreement that would help transform the Rhode Island toy company from a product-based manufacturing company to an interactive and entertainment focused multi-billion business. The deal has been worth hundreds of millions for the two companies. The CEO of Hasbro at the time was Al Verrecchia.
EA is the same company that had a major partnership and investment in 38 Studios. In a document released by Judge Michael Silverstein, a May 2010 memo was included that outlined the multi-million deal between EA and 38 Studios for the funding of $50 million and royalty structure that could exceed $100 million. The EA agreement was material to the state of Rhode Island’s financing. Of course, the state’s financing of $75 million to 38 Studios was a de facto a stabilizing force to EA.
In the 36-page interview with Verrecchia, then the Chair of the Board of Hasbro (both at the time of the vote to approve 38 Studios funding and at the date of the RSIP interview), was not asked any questions about the Hasbro relationship with EA and then EA’s agreement with 38 Studios.
Verrecchia didn’t recuse himself from the vote and voted for the funding scheme.
Verrecchia Says Staff and Lawyers Misled the Board
When asked if the staff and RI Economic Development Corporation's attorney Rob Stolzman mislead the board, Verrechia said yes.
“Yeah, then I’d think we’d been misled," said Verrechia.
Steve Nappa Tied to 38 Studios, Corso’s Tazza Caffe -- and Rehabbed Fox’s Husband’s Hair Salon in Corso’s Building
In one of his two interviews with RISP, Nappa outlines his selection to lead the construction at 38 Studios’ office space, his relationship with Mike Corso and work on Tazza Caffe, and the construction in another Corso building, which was the home to Corso’s close associate Gordon Fox’s husbands’s hair salon.
“Velvet Mafia” Named
As part of his interview with the RISP Steve Nappa names Congressman David Cicilline, former Speaker Gordon Fox, former House Finance Chair Steven Costantino and Mike Corso “as all members of the nicknamed group ‘Velvet Mafia.’”
Former Speaker Murphy Refused to Answer Questions
Former Speaker of the House Bill Murphy told RISP that he missed the vote on 38 Studios as well as nearly every other vote in May of 2010 and that he would not answer any other questions as he served as Gordon Fox’s attorney.
In the documents released in September of 2015, Bill Murphy attested to how he sat in on a meeting with Corso, Fox and Curt Schilling while he was still Speaker.
But now, emails starting in July of 2009 between Corso and 38 Studios’ Tom Zaccagnino show the wheels were put in motion even earlier than we thought.
Murphy’s interview for the criminal investigation was conducted by phone.
Rep. Carnevale Hoped Law Enforcement Got “to the Bottom of It'”
RISP asked former State Representative John Carnevale, “Do you think anybody benefited personally from this...?”
Carnevale told the State Police, “I don’t know, but if they did, I hope the State Police or the other - other - the feds, whoever investigated can come down, you know, to the bottom of it…”
Former House Finance Chair Costantino’s Lawyer was Former House Majority Leader George Caroulo
While Speaker Gordon Fox was represented by former Speaker Bill Murphy, former House Finance Chair Costantino is/was during the State Police interviews by former House Majority Leader George Caroulo.
Senate Claimed to Defer to the House
According to the State Police Investigative Report, the Senate claimed it deferred to the House. “They (Senators) all stated that the Jobs Creation Guarantee Program bill was a House bill, so they were not involved in any debate regarding its’s passage.”
Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed said she knew the bill was to benefit 38 Studios, but claimed she did not tell any other member of the Senate.
Carcieri’s Staff Stopped GOP Legislator from Capping Loan Program
GOP Representative Larry Ehrhardt tried to cap the amount any one company could receive, but Governor Carcieri’s legislative staffer and Keith Stokes of Economic Development caught his attention and convinced him not to submit the legislation as it would adversely impact a transaction that EDC was trying to close.
Erhhardt said that they never mentioned 38 Studios. Then-State Representative John Loughlin who ran for Congress that same year, also told the State Police that he thought that is Ehrhardt had submitted his amendment it might have passed and 38 Studios deal would have died.
Companies Who Paid More than $60 million Not Interviewed
Local law firms and national finance companies settled with the State of Rhode Island for more than $60 million, including global finance powers Wells Fargo Securities and Barclays Capital who paid the state $25.625 million.
But, it appears that no one from those companies were interviewed as a part of the criminal investigation.
No Charge for Tazza Installation
A former subcontractor for 38 Studios is alleging that his firm was ordered to work on former Speaker of the House Gordon Fox's business colleague Michael Corso's bar as part of their contract - and has produced what he says is documentation to prove it.
Project manager Michael Rossi with SyNet, Inc. has revealed a budget for work which he says shows at $25,000 line item for work to be done at Corso's Tazza Cafe in 2011 -- under a job order for the failed 38 Studios.
Warwick-based SyNet bills itself as "the premier design-build low voltage contractor of structured cabling, access control, surveillance and audio visual systems in the Northeast."
Rossi said that he went to the State Police with the information at the time it happened. "Nothing was done with it," said Rossi. "They're setting up to defend themselves with information they had 2-3 years ago."
Rhode Island State Police Colonel Steven O'Donnell told GoLocal on Wednesday that there has been an "ongoing investigation by the state police into Michael Corso." When asked for further details, O'Donnell said, "With the investigation, I can't comment further on the matter at this time."
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