Scoundrels: Chapter 1, Bugs in City Hall

Monday, December 19, 2016

 

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Bob Weygand, wore a bug for the FBI

Each week, GoLocalProv will publish a chapter of the book Scoundrels: Defining Corruption Through Tales of Political Intrigue in Rhode Island, by Paul Caranci and Thomas Blacke. 

The book uses several infamous instances of political corruption in Rhode Island  to try and define what has not been easily recognized , and has eluded traditional definition. 

The book looks at and categorizes various forms of corruption, including both active and passive practices, which have negative and deteriorating affects on the society as a whole. 

Buy the book by CLICKING HERE.

PART I

TRADITIONAL POLITICAL CORRUPTION

Some forms of political corruption are quite obvious and easily identifiable. A bribe or an act of extortion, do not represent a simple breach of ethics or morality. They are overt violations of the public trust. They are illegal acts punishable by time in federal or state prison and/or by the levy of substantial fines and penalties. They represent the most abhorrent acts of personal greed and the most egregious contempt of the leader’s fiduciary compact with the governed. Traditional political corruption is nothing short of reprehensible and deserving of the most severe penalties judicial review can appropriate.

Rhode Island has certainly been no stranger to this form of corruption and over the years its newspapers have been filled with accounts of its existence. While examples of Rhode Island’s traditional political corruption are many, the few examples recounted here highlight some of the higher profiled cases the Ocean State has endured. Though unique in many respects, each case is also symbolic of the greed and avarice that characterizes such political chicanery. The most convoluted example of political corruption offered in this book is contained in the strange case of Governor Edward DiPrete retold in chapter 3. The accounts of events of the corrupt activity told in that story span almost a decade and encompass so many corrupt acts that a substantial portion of this book is dedicated to its retelling.

 

1

BUGS IN CITY HALL

 

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Paul Caranci, Co-Author

Thirty-year old Robert A. Weygand already owned and operated his own landscape architecture business in East Providence when he decided to turn his attention to politics. In 1978 the founder and President of Weygand, Orchich & Christie, Inc. accepted an appointment to the East Providence Planning Board. He enjoyed the pace and the opportunity to offer his expertise in the future development of his city. So it should have surprised none of his colleagues when in 1985 he decided to seek elected political office and announced a run for a seat in Rhode Island’s General Assembly. He was elected to the State House of Representatives and took office in January of 1985. In a very short time he established himself as a leader when he engineered passage of the new state Zoning Enabling Act; a comprehensive piece of legislation that essentially rewrote the state’s outdated zoning laws.

Representative Bob Weygand as pictured in  the Congressional Pictorial Directory, 106th Congress.

His youthful energy and Kennedyesq appearance escaped no one’s notice as he brought together planners, developers and environmentalists, groups traditionally at odds in such matters, in a working committee designed to enlist their services and solicit their expertise in the development of the new laws. Also obvious were his political savvy and leadership skills as he sought and achieved unanimity from this diverse and potentially divisive committee.

Despite his apparent rising star status in the state’s Democrat Party, it would be something beyond his wildest imagination that would thrust Bob Weygand into the Rhode Island limelight and make him front page news.

The Democrats had another rising star in their ranks. Forty-Five year old “Pawtucket Mayor Brian Sarault was considered by many to be quite good looking. The dapper and self-assured mayor had been comfortably reelected to a second two-year term in 1990 and was already being mentioned as a possible gubernatorial candidate.” Something of a whiz kid, Sarault graduated high school at the age of 16 and moved on to Providence College. He was a classmate of U.S. Senator and presidential candidate Christopher Dodd and Bristol County District Attorney Ronald A. Pina. Sarault graduated Suffolk Law School in 1969 and began his law practice in Rhode Island. He married at age 27 but that union lasted only 8 years. He entered the political world in 1977 winning his first election earning a seat on the Pawtucket City Council.

Many years later on a hot July day in 1991, Sarault walked from his office to Main Street to attend a ceremony marking the renovation of an old fountain. “A passer-by paused when he saw Sarault, walked over to the mayor and asked him about the troublesome newspaper headlines. Sarault smiled. It was the kind of question he had heard often since his arrest a month earlier on the charge of extortion….’ This fellow named Weygand came along,’ Sarault reassured the stranger in a melodic voice. ‘I sold him some fund-raiser tickets and somehow he got confused. Don’t believe everything you read in the newspapers. I was a lawyer 20 years, and I know better than to try a case in the paper. Just give me my day in court.’"

Sarault convinced this man as he had convinced so many others since his arrest that he was innocent. That ability, in part, was why he was such a successful politician. Not only did he have the ability to dismiss his flaws and contradictions, but he was also able to turn them to his political advantage. “Those familiar with Pawtucket politics talk about Sarault’s charm, his charisma, and how those traits have given him the ability to negotiate political minefields. ‘He’s a master at that,’ said City Council President Raymond Houle. ‘He gives the impression he’s being picked on, and he’s got this mesmerizing manner. More than anything else, I think that’s what propelled him into office.’ ”

Sarault’s charisma and charm, however, were not enough to hold his marriage together. In 1980, just as he was about to begin his second term on the Council, Sarault’s wife Deborah filed for divorce citing “irreconcilable differences” and saying that Brian Sarault “had been ‘guilty of extreme cruelty.’ ” As part of the settlement, Sarault had to sell the home he owned with his wife Deborah and purchase a new home for her. He purchased one at 15 Concord St. in Cranston, RI from an elderly woman by name of Irene L. Mulick. Mulick, who was ill and was having trouble paying her bills, agreed to sell the house for $40,000. Sarault was also able to convince Mulick to loan him $15,000 for the down payment and to do so without consulting an attorney or requiring collateral. The terms of the promissory note indicated 12% interest and simply required repayment within 12 months. Mrs. Mulick died in 1985 having never received one penny toward the loan repayment. Not only did he not offer payment, but fourteen months later, just two months after final payment had been due, Sarault visited Mulick, who by now lived with her sister, 84-year old Marion F. Byrnes of Pawtucket, and allegedly asked her to let him borrow more money. Byrnes husband, who overheard the conversation, threw Sarault out. Sarault later denied asking for more money, and said he was visiting Mrs. Mulick to make new payment arrangements.

Mulick filed a civil complaint against Sarault on September 13, 1982. According to court documents, Sarault filed bankruptcy nine days later owing $142,825.32 and claiming assets of $4,073.07. The bankruptcy was resolved in 1985 with Sarault’s twelve creditors each taking a share of his assets. “Miss Mulick’s estate was repaid just $536.25 of the $15,000 she loaned Sarault. She died seven months before the bankruptcy was settled.”

While struggling with his financial issues, Sarault married for the second time. Margaret Mary “Peggy” McNamee, a dental hygienist in Warwick, and Sarault were married on January 22, 1984. Less than one year later, Sarault announced he would run for Mayor. However, as his campaign efforts were unfolding, “his father and younger brother were in federal court in Florida facing fraud charges for allegedly bilking at least $600,000 from borrowers in a loan scheme. Aime Sarault (Brian’s father) was eventually acquitted. But Stephen Sarault was found guilty on Feb. 23, 1985. He was sentenced to two years in prison and fined $2,000. He spent most of his time in the Federal Correctional Institution at Loretto in Pennsylvania. Brian Sarault claims to have had a falling out with Stephen and says he never visited his brother in prison.” Regardless, the family scandal may have had an adverse affect on the campaign and Sarault lost the election by 352 votes to Henry Kinch.

In 1987, Pawtucket’s Mayor Kinch decided not to seek re-election leaving Sarault in a personally bitter battle for the office against Councilwoman Kathleen Magill. The contest became very personal in nature and was extremely close when Magill made a decision to release records regarding Sarault’s bankruptcy and divorce. She argued that a person who couldn’t manage his own finances might have trouble managing the finances of a city. But the decision turned out to be a bad one. Sarault portrayed himself as a victim being persecuted by someone with a complete lack of compassion. Sarault won the election capturing 63% of the vote. Along with the good news of his wide margin of victory, Sarault’s personal financial fortunes began to turn around. By 1988 Sarault had purchased a $131,000 home in Pawtucket and a condominium in Cape Cod. In addition to his personal good fortunes, Sarault’s fundraising reached new heights. Sarault’s campaign finance reports disclosed that he raised over $600,000 since deciding to run for Mayor in 1985.

In 1989, Sarault found himself embroiled in another difficult battle for re-election. Sarault spent over $283,000 to win that race and in the process established a new spending record for a city race outside of Providence. He captured 55% of the vote in defeating former Councilman and State Representative Thomas E. Hodge.

A short time later, in August of 1990, the landscape architecture firm of Weygand, Orchlich, & Christie, Inc. was awarded a $43,360 contract to provide landscaping upgrades to Pawtucket’s Slater Park. “In March 1991, the city planning department asked the firm…to do more work at the park.” So in April 1991, when Weygand received a phone call from Pawtucket Mayor Brian Sarault, he naturally assumed that they would discuss the Park’s design. Instead of engaging in a lengthy conversation, however, Sarault simply “asked to meet personally with Weygand to discuss the contract change. Weygand first met with Sarault on April 18th. Saying he needed money for a ‘tough election coming up,’ Sarault allegedly asked Weygand to inflate the cost of the additional work by $5,000. At that meeting, the mayor turned up the radio and laid out a scenario under which he would get $3,000, and Weygand would keep $2,000.” Weygand was stunned. After nine years in business, dealing with municipalities on a regular basis, no one had ever tried to extort money from him. “‘In those few seconds,’ ” Weygand would later say, “‘you think about the good and the bad and everything else in between. And the thing that just kept popping up in my mind was: The most important thing to me has been my family and my reputation. I just didn’t want to be part of any of this that would affect either one.’ ” Weygand collected his thoughts and told the mayor he would like to participate, but wouldn’t be able to come up with the money all at one time. The mayor suggested that instead of a one-time contribution, Weygand could purchase ten $125.00 tickets to his upcoming fundraiser. That would provide the cover for the first payment of $1,250.

Weygand was troubled but knew what needed to be done. He first conferred with his wife and then his lawyer and General Assembly colleague Frank Gaschen, a close personal friend. That next morning, Weygand called US Attorney Lincoln C. Almond. Shortly thereafter, he went to the Federal Bureau of Investigation and agreed to wear a wire and tape record meetings in Pawtucket City Hall and telephone conversations with Sarault and others that might be related to the park improvements.

The opportunity to make the first recording didn’t take long to present itself. On May 8, 1991, “Weygand received a telephone message from Pawtucket City Solicitor Frederick Joslyn. The FBI recorded the call when Weygand returned it and Joslyn asked him the status of the tickets. Weygand told Joslyn that he would deal with the mayor on the tickets. The same day, Weygand set up another meeting with Sarault.”

In preparation for the meeting, the FBI gave Weygand $1,250 in marked bills and wired him for sound. On May 15, 1991, Weygand and Sarault met in the mayor’s office where Weygand presented Sarault with two contracts, each document containing a different option for padding the contract by $5,000. After selecting one of the options, the parties signed two originals. With Weygand still present, and the FBI listening in, Sarault called city planning director Roger Giraud and “asked if it would be a problem to increase the contract by $5,000. Giraud said it would not, Sarault told Weygand. Weygand gave Sarault the 1,250” and left.

Two days later on May 17th Weygand returned a call he had received from Sarault the previous day. The FBI was listening in when “Sarault asked him how many tickets he intended to use. Weygand said he needed two and the mayor said he would put Weygand down for three and ‘use the rest for some of my people.’ ” Shortly after hanging up, Weygand mailed an invoice for the “additional services” part of the transaction. On the day of the fundraiser, May 21, 1991, FBI agent Nicholas J. Murphy listened to another conversation in which Sarault told Weygand that Giraud, who was in the room next to Sarault, said that Weygand’s city check for part of the contract work would be available that week. When the check was not ready by Friday, Weygand called again and was told that Sarault would straighten out the payment to Weygand so he (Sarault) could get the “second half.” When asked by Weygand if he was referring to the $1,750, Sarault answered “right.”

Weygand was again fitted with a wire and a body microphone on Wednesday, June 12th, before walking into Sarault’s office to deliver the second payment of $1,750. It was just before 1:30 in the afternoon. Weygand had been nervous and concerned that Sarault might try to run his hand across Weygand’s back to feel for a wire. He was also aware enough to position the recording device elsewhere on his body.

Brian Sarault, accompanied by his wife Peggy, leave federal court following his arraignment for extortion and other related charges.

 

Weygand and the FBI had anticipated correctly, for as Weygand turned to walk out of Sarault’s office just a few minutes later, Sarault patted Waygand’s shoulder and quickly ran his hand all the way down Weygand’s back to the waist. Shortly after Weygand left Sarault’s office two men who identified themselves as FBI agents walked in and presented Sarault with arrest warrants for extortion, mail fraud and accepting an illicit payment as an agent of an organization that gets federal funds. The office was searched and Sarault was taken to Federal Court in Providence where he pled not guilty before U.S. Magistrate Judge Jacob Hagopian. Sarault’s wife Peggy stood by his side. “The FBI and state police detectives, meanwhile, executed search warrants at Pawtucket City Hall.”

Sarault, who on June 3, 1991 had announced that he would run for a third term on a reform platform now found himself looking at up to 35-years in prison and $750,000 in fines. Rather than facing 34-year old City Councilman William Lynch, son of former Pawtucket Mayor Dennis Lynch and Sarault’s harshest council critic, he would be facing a judge. Later that night, Sarault’s lawyer, Charles J. Rogers, Jr., told reporters that the charges were nothing more than allegations and the mayor had no intention of resigning.

Despite Rogers’ pronouncement, and Sarault’s claims of innocence, Sarault’s problems continued to mount. Allegations surfaced that city money collected from the payment of tickets resulting from “an ingenious – though controversial – way to raise revenues through an aggressive police crackdown on speeders, called the Pawtucket Accident Reduction Enforcement (PARE) program, were being diverted to Sarault’s campaign account. The crackdown, which was launched in June 1989, nailed more than 22,000 speeders in the last year (1990) and raked in about $1.4 million. An outside auditing firm hired by the City Council began investigating the program which was believed to involve up to $600,000 of missing funds.

In addition, on August 14, 1991, a federal grand jury handed up a second extortion-related indictment against Sarault for a 1990 attempt to solicit a $5,000 kickback from an engineering firm seeking a contract with the City’s Public Buildings Authority. Sarault maintained his innocence and refused to step down, although he did declare that he would no longer seek a third term as Mayor of Pawtucket.

Brian Sarault enters the courthouse to enter a plea following his arrest for extortion, mail fraud, and accepting an illicit payment as an agent of an organization that gets federal funds.

The two cases were merged and were scheduled for trial in the fall of 1991 despite a defense motion plea to keep them separate. Kevin J. O’Dea, arguing for the defense said that the jury might confuse the two cases. “Prosecutor Edwin J. Gale countered that the two alleged criminal acts were ‘identical schemes’ that occurred less than 10 months apart. Judge Torres agreed with Gale and denied the motion.

 On October 4, 1991, a federal grand jury indicted Sarault and 39-year old Louis S. Simon, the city’s acting public works director, on charges that they extorted $10,500 in kickbacks from two city contractors hired to make improvements to city playgrounds and parks. “The indictment alleged that Sarault and Simon extorted a $3,500 kickback from Walter R. Lenartowicz and his business, Pawtucket Fence and Iron Works, after the business was awarded a $33,508 contract in August 1989. In a second indictment, Simon was accused of extorting $7,000 from Domenic A. Rucco and Thomas S. Borkowski. Their company, D.A.R.E. Inc., of Rehoboth, MA, was hired as a subcontractor by Seaview Construction Inc. of Providence to perform work worth $229,400 in city parks.” The new charges against Sarault included extortion, conspiracy, and the illicit receipt of money by a government official, and the interstate use of a telephone facility to further extortion and mail fraud. These charges were also combined with the previous charges resulting in a total of 18 extortion-related charges. Convictions on all counts could have put Sarault behind bars for 115 years as well as forcing him to pay $2.5 million in fines.

Sarault, who still refused to leave office, did start to lose the support of his peers. Council President Raymond W. Houle, once a close ally of Saraults, called him a “total disgrace.” Perhaps more disgraceful was the fact that Simon was suspended while Sarault still held office.

In early November 1991, Robert E. Metivier was elected to succeed Sarault as Pawtucket’s mayor. On November 7, 1991, at about 9:30 A.M., Brian J. Sarault and his wife Peggy gathered about 25 City workers in an old courtroom next to his City Hall office and told them that he would resign his office about two months prior to the expiration of his current term. In a carefully worded one-page statement issued to the press, Sarault said, “I am truly and deeply sorry for what I have caused, and wish only that I had not done so. To those people who gave to me their support, loyalty and trust, I say I am deeply sorry and hope that I can someday earn your forgiveness.” While Sarault stopped short of admitting guilt, his resignation fueled speculation that he had worked out a plea bargain with prosecutors. Council President Houle, who had taken over the day-to-day city operations since June, prepared to take the oath of office as interim-mayor until Metivier’s term would begin. ‘ “It took him this long to do the honorable thing, but at least he finally did it,’ Houle said. ‘This gives us the opportunity to put the house in order before Bob Metivier comes in.’ ”

The next day, Sarault pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court, to accepting or soliciting more than $300,000 in bribes and kickbacks while he was mayor. Simon pleaded guilty to one count of extortion. Both men agreed to cooperate with federal investigators. A sentencing date was set for January 24, 1992. US Attorney Lincoln C. Almond, who up to this point refused public comment on the Sarault investigation, finally broke his silence saying that just about anyone who held a high level position within Sarault’s administration is a likely target of the on-going investigation.

Brian Sarault and his wife Peggy hurry into a waiting car after Brian's sentencing for extortion, and accepting or soliciting bribes and kickbacks,  totaling more than $300,000 while serving as mayor of Pawtucket.

Despite the admission, the City Council wasn’t satisfied. They hired a Boston lawyer, R. Robert Popeo, a fraud investigation specialist who, a few years later, would defend Governor Edward DiPrete’s son Dennis in his public corruption case, to investigate Sarault’s dealings and issue a report to the City. On November 19, 1991, the Council received the 40-page report that said in part, “Brian J. Sarault’s administration regularly circumvented bidding procedures to steer city contracts to campaign contributors and companies paying kickbacks." Even companies submitting the lowest bids were often paid, at Sarault’s direction, thousands of dollars above their original estimates. The report urged the investigation of former City Solicitor Fred E. Joslyn for possible theft of city services and breach of duties. The report also said that city employees regularly violated the City Charter by soliciting campaign contributions for Sarault on city time. The report urged that the city sue vendors and city officials, including Sarault, under the federal Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act. Houle and Metivier said that the city would more than likely follow that recommendation.

A shackled Sarault entering court to testify on money missing from the city of Pawtucket.

On Friday, January 31, 1992, Judge Ernest Torres sentenced Sarault to five-and-a-half-years in prison for his role in the extortion ring. Although the sentence could have been as much as twenty years in prison, prosecutors argued for a sentence of only 4 years, 9 months citing the fact that Sarault was cooperating with the investigation. “In imposing the longer term, Judge Ernest C. Torres, said there were many victims of the scheme: ‘taxpayers, the legitimate vendors who couldn’t get work because they wouldn’t play ball, the citizens of Pawtucket who found their trust in government eroded’ and ‘honest public officials who served the public interest but are now under the cloud of suspicion.”

Louis Simon was sentenced to 46 months in federal prison for his part in the scheme.

How could a charismatic elected official with a promising future in politics go from being a hardworking lawyer with an unblemished record to a power-hungry Pawtucket Mayor demanding bribes and kickbacks? No one that knew him well would have predicted he was capable of such behavior. A reporter said Sarault offered this explanation. “Once he took office as mayor it was a different story: People who wanted to do business with the city promised to make it worthwhile for him, and he succumbed to the temptation, soliciting contributions and bribes. ‘In the Mayor’s job, you just get caught up in this fundraising activity. I got caught up like I never should have got caught up.’ He said.”

Sarault offered a similar explanation in an attempt to regain the law license he had lost when he was disbarred on December 12, 1991 after pleading guilty to one count of racketeering. Pleading his case to a “three-member panel of Massachusetts Board of Bar Overseers, which has the power to reinstate him as a lawyer despite the racketeering conviction and the five-and-a-half years he spent behind bars. In a letter to the Board, Governor Almond, who prosecuted Sarault when he served as US Attorney, wrote, ‘In light of his conduct as a public official and his subsequent incarceration for racketeering, Mr. Sarault has established that he does not have the moral or ethical strength to represent members of the public in any capacity.’ ”

 On July 29, 2002, Justice Sosman of the Supreme Judicial Court of Suffolk County, MA., denied the reinstatement noting that the “petitioner failed to prove that he has the moral qualifications required for admission to practice law and that his resumption of practice will not be detrimental to the integrity or standing of the bar, the administration of justice or the public interest.”

In 1992 Bob Weygand successfully sought to become Rhode Island’s 65th Lt. Governor and served in that position until 1997 when he ran for an open seat in the United States House of Representatives. He served in the US House for four years before challenging Lincoln Chafee for a seat in the United States Senate, the one election Weygand did not win.

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.

 

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Thomas Blacke, Co-Author

Thomas Blacke has devoted his life to marketing, media and public relations and currently runs his own marketing, PR and security consulting firm. He has worked on many high level political campaigns, served as a lobbyist, and has held leadership positions in the local Democrat Party. Thom is also a professional magician and escape artist who holds multiple Guinness® World Records for escape artistry with ten world records in all. Blacke is the Editor/Publisher of an international magazine and the co-creator of a TV reality show. This is his seventh book.

 

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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