Corrente’s Connections to 38 Studios Lawyer Corso
Saturday, September 27, 2014
In 2012, Corso had pledged more than $14 million in Rhode Island motion picture tax credits that had not actually been issued as collateral in order to obtain an $8.5 million loan for Curt Schilling’s 38 Studios.
Corso, a top tax credit broker whose loan agreement with BankRI was among several 38 Studios-related matters investigated by state and federal authorities, was one of seven producers along with Corrente for “Backmask,” a horror film shot in Exeter.
Critics questioned where the tax credits were going to at the time, saying the film tax program only benefits a small number of connected individuals.
“They just go to the same crew of people,” said State Representative Charlene Lima at the time. “Without any transparency, people don't see how it's only the connected people that are the ones getting all the tax credits.”
Corso backed other local projects including "Loosies" and "Inkubus," two movies which received over $300,000 in local tax credits since 2010. Corso sold tax credits for those two films and as well as "Infected," which received $640,185 in credits from the state.
38 Studios Connections
The rest is history -- the General Assembly approved legislation two months later that expanded the EDC’s Job Creation Guaranty Program from $50-$125 million.
The following January, Corso secured an $8.5 million loan from BankRI by putting up $14.3 million in film tax credits as collateral. Corso and Schilling claim the state reneged on a deal for the credits after the company failed to make a $1.125 million payment due to the EDC on May 1, 2012. The company went bankrupt soon thereafter.
Former Ocean State Tea Party in Action president Lisa Blais called at the time had called for the tax credits to be halted.
“While the rule is innocent until proven guilty, the fact that this insider's name keeps popping up with tax credits should be create enough question to pause,” she said. “It also underscores that presumably many ‘non-VIPs’ have been turned away for tax credits to start or grow business or generate economic activity in other ways in RI.”
Related Slideshow: INVESTIGATION: Fox, Corso and 38 Studios
The Early Years
Fox was emerging as a powerful leader in the House via his role on the Finance Committee and later as Finance Committee Chair. Corso served on the management team at developer's Buff Chace's Cornish Associates.
The two worked together to write and pass the Historic Tax Credit Legislation.
Bio attached from the early 2000's - Cornish Assoicates Website.
Insiders Had Hands All Over Schilling’s 38 Studios Deal
The owner of the construction company that was awarded a contract to work on the interior of 38 Studios’ downtown headquarters has close ties to House leadership and other prominent local politicians, GoLocalProv has learned.
Steven Nappa, who owns Nappa Construction Management, has contributed over $16,000 over the last decade to top politicians including House Speaker Gordon Fox, Congressman and former Providence Mayor David Cicilline, Providence Mayor Angel Taveras, former House Speaker William Murphy and former House Finance chairman Steven Costantino. In June 2011, Nappa also contributed $1,000 to the Fund for Democratic Priorities, a political action committee maintained by House leadership.
Nappa is also connected with Michael Corso, a Providence lawyer who has made a fortune helping to sell state tax credits and was involved in the earliest meetings between Schilling and Rhode Island officials. The two hosted a private fundraiser at the Peerless Lofts for then-Majority Leader Fox in 2007. Nappa also helped build the movie screen located in the open space next to Tazza, the downtown café owned by Corso.
Corso himself has contributed $11,625 to Fox, Cicilline, Taveras, Murphy and other local politicians in recent years.
Movie Tax Credits
Corso and Movie Tax Credits
The Providence lawyer who pledged more than $14 million in Rhode Island motion picture tax credits that had not actually been issued as collateral in order to obtain an $8.5 million loan for Curt Schilling’s 38 Studios is now playing a behind-the-scenes role in a Michael Corrente movie that is slated to receive $625,000 in state tax credits, GoLocalProv has learned.
Michael Corso, a top tax credit broker whose loan agreement with BankRI is among several 38 Studios-related matters currently being investigated by state and federal authorities, is one of seven producers for “Backmask,” a horror film currently being shot in Exeter, according to IMDB. Corso’s business partner, Anthony Gudas, is listed as the executive producer and former State Rep. John Loughlin has a small role in the film.
On Monday, the Rhode Island Film and TV Office confirmed the film has received an “Initial Certification Letter” for the tax credits. Corso did not respond to a request for comment.
Questions Surround Speaker Fox’s Relationship with 38 Studios Insider
Several weeks after initial inquiries from GoLocalProv, House Speaker Gordon Fox still isn’t answering questions about a 2007 fundraiser held for him by the lawyer who would play a pivotal role in bringing Curt Schilling’s 38 Studios to Rhode Island three years later.
In March 2007, Michael Corso, Steven Nappa and Robert Britto of Nappa Building Corp. and former State Representative Ray Rickman were listed as the hosts of a private fundraiser held in the Peerless Lofts for the then-Majority Leader. The event, which helped Fox rake in approximately $10,000, was catered by Tazza, the downtown café owned by Corso.
But while Fox’s campaign finance reports from the time include details about several other fundraising events held during the first quarter of 2007, there is no information listed about expenses incurred for the Corso-hosted event, which may constitute a campaign finance violation.
“Speaker Fox has been extremely busy entering the final two weeks of the session, but he will soon be checking the campaign records from five years ago,” Fox spokesman Larry Berman told GoLocalProv on June 4. “If corrections are necessary to the report, he will make them.”
Fox and Corso
38 Studios Insiders Have Been Connected Since May 2009
The lawyer at the center of the deal that brought Curt Schilling’s 38 Studios to Rhode Island had a business relationship with a top executive at the video game company a year before a piece of legislation that expanded the EDC’s Job Creation Guaranty Program was pushed rapidly through the General Assembly.
On May 29, 2009, Michael Corso, a top tax credit broker whose relationship with House Speaker Gordon Fox helped steer 38 Studios to the Ocean State, struck a deal to purchase credits handed out for the multi-million dollar Stone House hotel project in Little Compton from the Round Pond Management Corporation, whose President was Tom Zaccagnino.
By June of that year, Zaccagnino, who was also the co-managing director at the Wellesley Advisors Corporation in Maynard, MA, had become Vice Chairman and Lead Director of 38 Studios. A month later, Haymarket Capital, an LLC with the same address as the Wellesley Advisors Corporation, was involved with the seven-figure bridge loan a group of Rhode Island investors provided to 38 Studios.
In March of 2010, Zaccagnino and Schilling met with Speaker Fox and former EDC director Keith Stokes in Corso’s downtown law office. By May, the General Assembly had expanded the EDC’s loan guarantee fund from $50 million to $125 million, the exact amount the EDC awarded to 38 Studios later that summer.
38 Studios Contractor Ordered to Install Equipment in Fox’s Crony’s Bar
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