Is North Providence The Most Corrupt Town In America?

Monday, September 05, 2011

 

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North Providence Town Hall

Over the past decades, Rhode Island has had its share of high profile corruption cases. The state has seen a governor, mayors, legislators and a range of public officials indicted and sent to federal and state prison.

But the widespread, seemingly never ending saga in North Providence begs the the question: Is North Providence the most corrupt town in America?

Three members of the City Council, the former town solicitor, a businessman, a radio DJ and now the police chief have all been convicted, plead guilty or are now under indictment.

GoLocalProv asked the state’s ethics and legal experts -including former US Attorney for Rhode Island, Robert Corrente - to get their thoughts on the image of North Providence.

Corrente said it is depressing for the town’s residents to have to see the repetition of behavior of politicians over and over again and that “it doesn’t speak well of the culture of the town.”

Geographically, of the Smallest Town in RI

The town of 32,000 residents is just 5.8 miles in area (Central Fall is physically smaller, but it is a City) and has been the home to Rhode Island celebs including former PC basketball great Ernie DiGregorio, 2007 Miss Rhode Island Danielle Lacourse and founder of the Minuteman Project, Jim Gilchrist. Unfortunately, the town may be best known for a run of criminal offenses by elected and appointed officials.

Pound for Pound

Of the top thirteen elected or appointed non-school positions, five have been arrested in the past 24 months.

Regarding the most recent scandal by the three North Providence Councilmen who were found guilty of conspiring in a scheme to extort bribes in exchange for favorable council votes, Corrente said, “Judging from the last 12 months, a town that size has produced more than its share of unfortunate headlines.” Today, Corrente is a partner at the law firm Burns & Levinson, LLP.

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North Providence Councilmen

“The picture of the three Council members, Larry, Moe, Curly - caught the public imagination and even national media like The New York Times got into it. It really captured the imagination. We see a lot betraying of the public trust brought and it brought a lot more attention to it then normally would., said John Marion, Executive Director of Common Cause RI.

“The sheer number of people involved in such a small city council had a large number of officials over a long period of time engage in behavior so it certainly was a big black eye and it wasn’t sort of lone wolf situation with one person, there were a number of people acting in conjunction with each other,” said Marion.

Not All the Same

While members of the council and others were tied to a federal probe, Police Chief John J. Whiting’s recent arrest was handled by the state police. Whiting allegedly stole $714 from a stripper’s purse.

“The issues are pretty distinct because with what we saw with city council and other public officials and it’s distinct from what happened with police chief. Chief was an impulsive act and he was acting in official capacity but he wasn’t using his office in same way we’ve seen with the other public officials,” said Marion.

“I think its disappointing especially in these economic times,” said attorney Bill Devereaux, a partner in the law firm Pannone, Lopes, Devereaux & West, LLC “…the town gets painted with a certain kind of brush. I feel sorry for the people who live in North Providence.”

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John A. Zambarano, 48
North Providence councilman
Indicted: August 2010 & November 18, 2010
Sentenced: May 17, 2011
Charge: Insurance Fraud and Corruption charges
Conspired a scheme to extort bribes in exchange for favorable council votes on four matters.
Also plead guilty to insurance fraud scheme involving Lori A. Sergiacomi

Joseph S. Burchfield, 43
North Providence councilman
Indicted: August 19, 2010
Sentenced: May 2011
Charge: Bribery and extortion
Conspired a scheme to extort bribes in exchange for favorable council votes on four matters.

Raymond L. Douglas III
North Providence councilman
Indicted: September 2, 2010
Sentenced: February 24, 2011
Charge: Extorting debtors in a sports-betting operation, solicited bribes
Conducted illegal gambling racket and conspired a scheme to extort bribes in exchange for favorable council votes on four matters.

Edward Imondi, 74
North Providence businessman
Indicted: August 19, 2010
Sentenced: May 2011
Charge: Extortion and bribery conspiracy
Delivered bribe money to the councilmen in return for votes in condo project

Robert S. Ciresi, 78
Attorney and former North Providence town councilman and solicitor
Indicted: August 19, 2010
Sentenced: April 26, 2011
Charge: conspiracy, bribery and Hobbs Act extortion
Middle-man in a corruption and kickback scheme run by three North Providence town councilmen

Lori A. Sergiacomi, a/k/a Tanya Cruise, 49
On-air Providence radio personality
Indicted: November 2010
Sentenced: August 25, 2011
Charge: Conspiracy and mail fraud
Sentenced for role in an insurance scam participating in a conspiracy to defraud an insurance company of nearly $50,000.

John J. Whiting
North Providence Police Chief
Arrested: September 1, 2011
Charge: Larceny
Charged with stealing $714 from a woman’s purse and tried to cover up

 
 

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