Wired: 2010 Part 1, A Book by Paul Caranci
Monday, June 05, 2017
The book details how Caranci gambled his thirty-year political career, his reputation, and his family’s safety in his quest to restore good, honest government to a community that needed it most by going undercover with the FBI for 17 months to exposed corruption.
Buy the book by CLICKING HERE
The Lyman Mill
In early February 2010 Kevin O'Sullivan, the same developer who entered into the purchase and sales agreement with Churchill Banks for the acquisition of the “Stop & Shop” property, sought a zone change to allow for the condominium conversion of an old Lymansville mill building. The Lyman Mill was built in 1809, shortly after the start of America’s Industrial Revolution. Developed by Retired Supreme Court Justice Daniel Lyman, the mill was the first in America to utilize water-powered looms in the manufacture of cotton. It was the first mill built within the current bounds of North Providence and has enormous historical significance.
At the time in question, the mill was located in a Manufacturing General zone. Condominium conversion would, therefore, require a change in zone to Residential General. Although engaging the services of a different attorney initially, O'Sullivan eventually retained attorney Robert Ciresi, a man who certainly had played a prominent role in many of the deals in the past. Ray Douglas assessed the situation and realized the potential for some quick cash. He discussed it with Burchfield and Zambarano and the plan was hatched.
Despite their assurances that I would be part of all future bribery schemes, it wasn't until several weeks later that Zambarano shared the news with me. He discussed the possibility of the bribe involving the Lyman Mill in a March 8th phone conversation saying, “Another thing between me and you. I might be working on something else too at the Lymansville Mill.” He acknowledged that Burchfield and Douglas were also part of the plan. For the first time Zambarano admitted that the Stop & Shop deal was not in the best interest of the town, but implied that this deal was.
“And what resistance are we gonna get from neighbors over there? There's nobody over there except for across the street. Half of those people rent over there. It's a great location. In other words, like the [Stop & Shop] thing, that was a problem. Because there was neighbors worried about traffic and everything. This is improving the neighborhood. I don't necessarily agree we were improving the neighborhood with the [supermarket property] but, you know, we did what we had to do.”
Zambarano had a way about getting very excited over the smallest things. In this case it was the serendipitous way that Ciresi got involved in this project that set him aflutter. In a wispy voice Zambarano spoke even faster than usual.
“But lo and behold, lo and behold, I said to Maryanne [Zambarano’s sister and Town Clerk] 'I need the information on that zone change, I said, because I need to know. It's in the middle of my district I need to know who's in charge of It.' ...So I...I knew this lawyer, and see if they could work it out for us. But then she called me back Thursday she said, 'That information I gave you on that zone change is all changed now.' She said, 'They called me they said they retained another attorney. They are not using the one they were using originally.' Well then I find out Friday night, which I'm gonna call him today, guess who the attorney is? Bobby Ciresi...We'll see what happens then. Because that's like the icing on the cake, Bobby taking that over.”
Zambarano was beginning to feel invincible noting that he didn't “care what the others [Giusti, Giammarco and Manfredi] feel about the zone change in Lymansville, as long as I can see if we can make it happen...the four votes will be there and let them [the other 3 council members] do what they want to do.” For Zambarano, adding my voice as a fourth vote meant that there was no longer a need to try to convince someone outside of the conspiracy to vote in support of their position. That burden lifted when I “joined” their criminal enterprise.
On March 15th I followed up with Zambarano asking if he ever spoke to Ciresi about the Lyman Mill deal. “Yeah, that's another little thing,” he said, “I don't want to talk about it on the phone, but yeah. He went on to say there was a problem and I ain't supporting it [the zone change] if it [the bribe] doesn't happen.” He suggested that we all act together in defeating the zone change if the owners refuse to pay us.
The following day was a very busy one for the co-conspirators. During a flurry of phone calls, Ciresi told Zambarano to use Edward (Eddie) Imondi as a middleman because Imondi had a close relationship with Kevin O'Sullivan. In fact, they had been partners in the Plympton Street property that was the subject of the Stop & Shop bribery scheme. Starting at about 8:30 in the morning Douglas called Zambarano, Zambarano called Ciresi and then Burchfield. Zambarano called Ciresi again and then Douglas. Then, at 4:30 and 4:42 p.m. respectively, two final calls were placed to Douglas. Throughout the course of those phone calls a strategy had developed. Zambarano and Douglas, the two councilmen from the district in which the mill was located, would visit the site with O'Sullivan's business partner. It was during this visit that Douglas and Zambarano informed the business partner that the zone change would be approved only upon the payment of a $75,000 bribe to the councilmen who would deliver the affirmative votes. Zambarano explained how the councilmen were receiving several calls in opposition to the project and that there was no way we would take that kind of heat without getting a “ham sandwich.” A ham sandwich, of course, referred to money and was one of the code terms the trio developed to better conceal their corrupt activities.
Of course, none of this was true; it was simply a ruse as Zambarano explained to me on March 28th. “I talked to Bobby Ciresi,” Zambarano told me, “and I said, before he was hired to do this, and I said 'You gotta find out who's involved in this here,' I says, 'and if you know the attorney.' He [Ciresi] said 'well, I'll see.' Then low and behold, these people called Bobby out of the blue to represent them, this guy. ...So he says 'yeah, I'm meeting him tomorrow.' He said 'I don't even know him, John, so let me feel him out.' So, ah, I said 'all right.' I said 'Here's what I want you to do.' I said 'Set up a meeting with him, tell him that the councilmen in the area are concerned about some issues that the neighbors are calling up, several calls.' I want him to think that the guy has got bigger problems.”
I asked Zambarano if he really got any calls. “No,” he replied laughing.
Zambarano explained that if the bribe money wasn't paid the three would defer action on the zone change. “Why the fuck should we give them that for nothing like that? They make, they're gonna make millions over there. Why should we? So we got four votes, me, you, Joey [Burchfield] and, and, Ray [Douglas]… defer action. And if they ask why you defer action, at the time I'm gonna say because I, we got some, ah, ah, some concerns. This is, we gotta digest all this information.”
A couple of days later, on March 30th, Burchfield and Douglas met Imondi at the Cadillac Lounge, an embattled strip club in the City of Providence. Imondi used his cell phone to call Kevin O'Sullivan. Imondi told him that O'Sullivan “had a problem” and needed to speak to Douglas. Douglas took the phone and told O'Sullivan that they needed to meet to discuss some issues. The following day, Burchfield, Douglas and Imondi met with Kevin O'Sullivan at a restaurant in North Providence. Douglas told O'Sullivan of the significant neighborhood opposition to the zone change and described the petition being circulated in the neighborhood. He explained how the Council would need to be paid if they were going to defy the neighbor's wishes and grant the zone change. He said the cost would be $75,000.
On April 1st, Zam called Douglas to discuss the status of the bribe negotiations. Douglas, who had dubbed Imondi “that farmer guy” because of his scruffy appearance, said, “Um, when I talked to them, ah 'what's up? Just wanted to see if you heard anything?' And 'What's going on?' and ah he's like 'Ah no, not really.' and kinda like that. I said 'Did you express the situation to him and all that there?' And he's like 'Yeah, I told him, but' … I'm like 'what do you mean but? What?' And ah 'I don't know, I guess.' He hasn't called me or anything like that yet.”
Douglas told Zambarano that the initial positive reaction that he got during the meeting with Imondi at which the phone call to O'Sullivan took place might have been because the amount of the bribe wasn't specified yet. “(Laughing) At that time ya know what I mean? Maybe he thought it was one tenth of that, ya know what I mean? Who knows what he thought.” The two went on to discuss how they would defer action on the rezoning if the bribe weren't paid despite having to wait another month or so to get the money.
Eddie Imondi called Douglas the following day. An excited Douglas quickly called Zambarano to share the news. “Just got a call from that guy. He wants to meet with me tonight or tomorrow morning...he didn't really want to talk, he wants to meet to talk. He didn't say no, you know what I mean?” Zambarano must have sensed Douglas's anxiety and reassured him by recounting his own experience when meeting with Baccari on the Stop & Shop property bribe. “I had no reservations,” Zambarano said, “I never really knew Richard Baccari before I went down to the office but I had no reservations with that because Bobby's [Ciresi] a good friend of mine.” Douglas responded in his own reassuring way. “See this guy, the middle guy, you know he grew up with Joey's [Burchfield] father.” “When this happens,” Zambarano said, “it becomes a catch 22 because if he says fuck you then he's worried about how it's gonna play out at the meeting.”
As soon as he hung up Zambarano realized that his last statement might have been more alarming than it was reassuring. He immediately redialed Douglas. “Hey Ray, I was not trying to scare you. We are all in this together. If something was to happen I'll go down with the ship too.” Ray agreed.
The day was long and Zambarano was finally at home trying to relax. His cell phone clock indicated that it was 10:00 p.m. but he couldn't stop thinking about the importance of the meeting with Imondi. He called Douglas again. “Did you talk to Joey,” Zambarano asked. “No,” Douglas answered. “No? Did he leave you a message and tell you what he...?” “Yeah, yeah,” Douglas interrupted, “he sent me text or whatever but I didn't actually talk to him you know.” “Neither did I,” Zambarano countered. “I hope he is able to come back here for this I mean I don't know what's gonna happen anyways.” (Zambarano was referring to the fact that Burchfield was in Connecticut.)
Douglas responded, “Yeah, well, he told me. I got him on the phone, he says, 'I'll come back there tomorrow.' if I want but I told him, he goes, 'That other guy never called you back?' And I'm like 'No, he never fucking called me.' you know? I don't like that the fuck didn't call me...I don't like that at all.” Zambarano asked Douglas if Burchfield felt that the bribe would be paid before Tuesday's Council meeting. “I was thinkin',” Douglas said, “that maybe, maybe we were too greedy or somethin'...shoulda just ask for a little bit, I don't know. Yeah, you know, maybe should have said fifty you know what I mean and not been a pig don't know you know?” “Well, why didn't he counter, counter, counter, counter-propose,” Zambarano stuttered. “No, maybe he will,” Douglas responded. “He didn't - not, yet. I just, I didn't. You know how you tell, people talk to you on the on the phone, you can tell by his tone of voice? Like I just, I could just hear like hesitance in his voice. You know what I mean? You know?” The conversation concluded with the two conspirators agreeing that they would have to wait until Tuesday and pretty much play it by ear.
But not knowing was grating on Douglas and he called Imondi to push for an answer setting in motion a series of calls between Imondi, O'Sullivan and Douglas culminating in an agreement for O'Sullivan to make a partial payment before the vote with the balance to be paid about two weeks later.
On April 3rd, Douglas made the approximately 1-mile trek to Zambarano's house to discuss the details of the arrangement. O'Sullivan would pay a total of $75,000 in bribe money in exchange for the Council's affirmative vote on the zone change, Douglas told him. O'Sullivan would deliver $21,000 on the night of the Council meeting (money we later learned that he had to borrow from his son's education fund) and would pay the balance of $54,000 when the financing was approved by the project's lending institution. The two also discussed their feelings about my position in the arrangement. Why should I be given an equal share in the bribe money when they took all the risk in arranging the details? They met with Ciresi and Imondi. They took the risk of approaching O'Sullivan, an unknown quantity in the scheme. They deserved a bigger share they reasoned.
The pair of thieves hatched a new plan to deceive me and agreed to tell me that the total bribe was for $25,000 and not the $75,000 that they were actually getting. They also discussed the danger in delaying the vote wondering if O'Sullivan was “stupid enough to go around saying they deferred action because they tried to shake me down and I didn't give them, deliver them the money.”
The following day Zambarano arranged to meet with me to fill me in on the details. Once again we met outside the Dunkin Donuts on Smith Street in North Providence and sat in Zambarano’s van. “Alright this thing,” Zam began, “Our goal was to get twenty-five, alright, and there was a middle man that was talking to ...not the guy that I met (referring to Imondi) the guy that owns the Lowes and all that...he's the guy with the money.” Zam had mistakenly identified the Lowes project rather than the Stop & Shop project implying to me that perhaps there was something going on with the Lowes transaction as well.
“So, we, they met with them and he came back and he says, I don't have a problem with any of that. He says matter of fact...he says, I'll agree to everything. He says, but the problem is...he says now...I have got to continue...more happened after this. He says until this gets approved I can't get the financing. And he says I got all kinds of money tied up. He says, so he...he says, I have got a problem coming up with the cash right now. So, he says, tell them I'm going to have the financing within sixty days, after this thing is approved and everything and I'm a man of my word and so he came back to us...Yeah, so ...uh... we told him, that he has to come up with something. He has to show some kind of something. He has to show some good faith...he even comes up with half, we'll get $2,500 apiece and then in sixty days, he'll give us the rest of the money. It's up to us. I mean do you, we want to take this chance, but in another words...if he doesn't come up with half we're deferring action.”
There is just no honor among thieves! Imagine, while they were extorting $75,000 from the developers, they were still cheating me, their partner, by deceiving me into believing that the bribe was less so I would accept $2,500 now and $2,500 in two months. The balance, or $70,000, would be split between the other three councilmen and the middleman. I was simply amazed that they couldn't even be honest with their crime partner.
I asked if the middleman was getting paid too. Zambarano told me he was getting $5,000. “I mean, I mean, we had to pay him. I mean, he, we had to give him it...Bobby's [Ciresi] out. So, uh, the middle guy, you probably know him, but it's um, Eddie Imondi.” Zambarano explained that it was Ciresi who told Zambarano that Imondi was O’Sullivan’s partner in the Stop & Shop deal and had a good relationship with him. Ciresi referred Imondi to him. “Joey [Burchfield] knows Imondi very good. Like this (gesturing by crossing the index and middle fingers of his left hand.) He went on to tell me that Imondi said that O'Sullivan was a man of his word. “He said, 'I will not steer you guys wrong.” Despite Imondi's assurances, Zambarano said that Douglas insisted to Imondi that O'Sullivan's “good faith” deposit be paid on the night of the Council meeting.
The next day Zambarano and Douglas spoke. Zambarano told him about my reaction to the offer. “Paul called me yesterday and I told him what we said we're going to tell him. He was fine with it. I told you. He was happy as a pig in shit.” Douglas responded, “Yeah he's fine because he's not doing anything and he knows we don't even need him for it. You know what I mean. He's not stupid. So anything for him is like a bonus.” Zambarano agreed, “Even that amount you said he would be thrilled and you were right because he was thrilled the last time.” “Yeah right,” Douglas said, “exactly he's getting more than the last time. So, um, good, he'll be happy.”
Zambarano lamented the difficult work of being a councilman in trying to justify the bribery demand. In so doing, he also provided a hint of the greed and avarice that provides his real motivation for wanting to be an elected official. He told Douglas, “You know we give all these guys all this stuff. What do we get out of it?...I just get disgusted. We're the ones that have to run for office. We're the ones who have to put up with all the bullshit. And these people...we're better off being the ones behind the scenes like these people and getting things from the Councilmen.”
Shortly before 6:00 that evening Zambarano phoned Douglas for an update. Douglas said he didn't have a good feeling because he hadn't received a return call from Imondi. “Oh boy,” Zambarano said. “You know I was thinking about this after, buddy. I hope you're not mad, that you're doing, you know you said about Caranci and 'Oh, I'm doing all the work.” I hope you don't think that about me.” “No, no, not at all,” Douglas said, “Not at all buddy.” Zam interjected, “Because we help one another. I mean I did the last one and you know what I mean...” “Yeah, of course,” Douglas reassured him. “I'm not mad, not even a little buddy. I mean I knew the other guy, so that was my, you know, I knew the other guy a little bit, but you know, I had my in with him.”
Zambarano then turned his attention back to O'Sullivan. “Well let's see what happens. You know what? I'll tell you what buddy. If we do this without anything and then he screws us, I'm gonna make that guy's life miserable down there.” “Oh,” Douglas agreed, “I'll do whatever I can do to be right behind you. You know what I mean. Don't worry about that.”
April 6th proved to be problematic for the co-conspirators. That is when Douglas received a call he only half expected. Imondi informed him that O'Sullivan would be unable to come up with the money to pay the bribe. Now Douglas had to break the news to Zambarano, but in light of their earlier discussions about pulling ones weight, he apparently wondered how Zam might take it. “How'd you make out?” Zam asked. “Absolutely nothing,” a low key Douglas replied. “Did you talk to him,” Zambarano pressed. “Yup. Yup. Can't get any, trying a hundred percent and can't do nothing. Sounds like a stroke job to me, but I don't know, you know.” Zam was dumbfounded. “It's hard to believe. That guy's involved in all that stuff, there's no way.” “Exactly,” Ray declared. “That's my opinion too, you know what I mean? That this guy's involved with all this stuff. And there's no way he can come up and get a ham sandwich up? I find it hard to believe. Know what I mean?” “What are we going to do,” Zambarano inquired of Douglas. “I don't know. Well Joey wants us to meet earlier at 6:00 so we'll have to talk about it. We'll talk about it at 6:00. I'm gonna call him now and let him know.”
Rather than have the conversation on the phone the three decided to meet to discuss the status of the bribe and the zone change at Chubby's, a North Providence bar that the FBI contend Douglas has a undisclosed ownership interest in. There the three decided to defer action at the Council meeting later that night and give O'Sullivan more time to mull the situation over. I was informed of the plan as I entered the Town Hall. “OK,” I said, “whatever we got to do.”
When Burchfield read the agenda item at the meeting Douglas immediately interjected that he wanted to provide the other Council members an opportunity to view the property. To that end, he made a motion to continue the Lymansville property zoning change hearing until April 26, 2010. The motion was quickly second and passed unanimously.
“They carry out these schemes so convincingly with their motions and seconds,” I thought. “They always know exactly what to say so the other councilmen don’t object to their wishes. They never miss a beat and no one outside of the conspiracy ever seems the wiser to what is really going on. I can only imagine how long they have been getting away with this criminal activity.”
After the meeting Douglas assured Zambarano that he would be on the phone with Imondi in the morning. The next day Zambarano discussed the bribe with Burchfield. Joe was always more cautious and seldom said anything incriminating. True to form, he couched his words in veiled language that could have easily been lifted from the script of the mob movie Goodfellows.
Burchfield - “If this other thing happens, I'm not running. I'm done.”
Zambarano - “You mean the...?”
Burchfield - “I'm telling ya.”
Zambarano – “What other thing? The thing from last night?”
Burchfield – (long pause) “The good thing we've been waiting for.”
Zambarano – “Oh, yeah. But we're not gonna know if that happens until after the guy wins the race.”
Burchfield – (long pause) “No, not that!”
Zambarano - “Oh, that thing that we're waiting for.”
Burchfield - “Yup.”
Zambarano - “Oh.”
“Everything I Do is Always the Hard Way”
Several days passed with no significant news. Then on April 12th, Zambarano reminded Douglas, “Two weeks from today is that meeting.” “Yeah,” Douglas said, “I'll follow up with that like next week. You know what I mean? I'm not gonna...” “Yeah, Yeah.” Zambarano interrupted, “oh, no, no. I wouldn't, no.” “I'm not gonna worry about it this week,” Douglas continued, “It's two weeks from this Tuesday, right?...So next week I'll follow...like a week ahead of time, and uhh, you know, check in with him and see how he's making out. You know what I mean?” Zambarano wished out loud, “I hope he has it all.” “Well,” Douglas reassured him, “he said that uhh, you know, said he, you know, said he would. So, uhh, you know, we'll see what happens.”
Two days later Zambarano again lamented to Douglas. “Everything I do is always the hard way, Ray.” “Yeah, I hear ya buddy,” Ray answered. “Nothin's ever handed,” Zambarano continued. “Yeah,” Douglas said, “well...hopefully I can hand you something, we'll see. ...It better happen. I came to the point where I'm relying on it.” “Yeah,” Zambarano agreed, “me too!”
In addition to all the extortion and bribery schemes that the three were including me in on, it was clear from the veiled conversation of April 7th that the co-conspirators were planning something major that I wasn't privy to. It must have been life altering, however, because in an April 14th discussion of the Lyman Mill bribe between Zambarano and Burchfield the latter said, “Hopefully that other thing comes through and we can move on nice nice...If this other thing happens, I'm telling you, we'll have to sit down me you and Ray have a long talk.”
As the clock ticked toward the next Council meeting, Zambarano and Douglas worked feverishly to iron out the extortion arrangements. Early on the morning of April 20th Zambarano called Douglas to discuss the bribe and what official action the councilman should take on the Lymansville property zoning change. Zambarano asked, “Anything on that other guy? That's Monday you know that meeting...” “It's Monday,” Douglas acknowledged, “I'm taking a ride down and to see that other guy. I told you I didn't like his attitude last time I talked to him...So I'm gonna go to the other guy. Hopefully, I wanted to go today, but I'm just too fucking busy.” Zambarano expressed concern that nothing may happen before Monday night's meeting. Douglas reassured him, “I don't know...no, something will happen, I just don't know if it's gonna be exactly...what you know...you know everything we want...you know what I mean?”
Feeling more empowered by the encouragement, Zam replied, “Yeah, I mean, but he should have...it should be all because we gave him three extra weeks.” Douglas agreed with Zambarano’s assessment and concluded, “I will talk to the guy...maybe I'll just try to call the other guy today...”
A few days later, on April 23rd, Zambarano called Burchfield who was in Connecticut at Foxwoods Resort and Casino. Burchfield told Zambarano, “I'm coming back tonight because tomorrow at some point me and you and Ray need to go see that guy. We got to take a ride.”
Sealed With a Kiss
The day of the Council meeting finally rolled around but we were still no closer to knowing what was in store. I called Zambarano shortly after 9:00 that morning to inquire how I should vote at the meeting. Of course if the bribe were to be delivered I would vote in favor of the project that I supported anyway. If it were not paid, then our plan, regardless of how despicable, was to oppose the zone change saying that there was too much local opposition to the project.
Things now had to move quickly and Douglas made sure they did. He called O'Sullivan and demanded a partial payment of the $75,000 bribe in exchange for a favorable vote on the Lymansville property zone change. At about 1:40 p.m. Burchfield, Douglas and Zambarano met at Andino's Restaurant on Federal Hill in Providence to discuss the plan. The call made earlier to O'Sullivan was productive and over drinks Douglas shared the news with Burchfield and Zambarano. The latter two conspirators finally heard the news they were waiting to hear. The bribe would be paid later that day. Twenty-five minutes later the three emerged from the restaurant with two of the councilmen exchanging high-fives.
At 3:01 p.m. Imondi left the Cadillac Lounge, the strip club where he was employed as a manager, and got into his car. He made the brief trek to the parking lot of the Home Depot a few hundred yards away and waited. A short time later, O'Sullivan pulled up and got into the passenger seat of Imondi's car handing him $21,000 in cash, a partial payment of the $75,000 bribe that he agreed to pay in exchange for a favorable vote in support of the zone change. He had gotten the cash by stripping a college fund that he established for his son, money he hoped to replace with profits from the mill project.
The Cadillac Lounge itself has been the subject of an ongoing FBI probe. In June of 2010, the FBI subpoenaed records from the Providence Licensing Board as part of their investigation into the Board’s granting of a liquor license to the Club. The lounge's application had been approved on a controversial 2-1 vote despite a recommendation by City lawyers that it not be granted. Board members Joan Badway and Stephen Daniels voted to grant the license. Board Chairman Andrew Annaldo, a former candidate for mayor of the City of Providence, was the lone-dissenter. In the waning days of June 2010, while a subpoena was being delivered to City Hall, the FBI raided the Board of Licenses confiscating files and computer equipment. The raid was widely reported on local news stations. The FBI had also raided the files in 2006 when they questioned several members of the Board. Ironically, the FBI agent that delivered the June subpoena to City Hall was none other than Jim Pitcavage. According to Serena Conley, the City's licensing administrator, the requested records took a full two days to copy. Agents then carried two boxes of material across the street to the Providence office of the FBI.
Feeling a sense of gratification now that the cash was in hand, Imondi returned to the Cadillac Lounge parking lot where he met Burchfield and Douglas. The three got into Douglas's car and Imondi, aka “the farmer guy” delivered the cash bribe, but not before retaining $5,000 for himself. Burchfield kissed Imondi on the cheek as a sign of his gratitude then he and Douglas returned to Douglas's home no doubt very pleased with their day's accomplishment. There Zambarano joined them at 3:50 p.m. at which time they handed Zambarano his share, and my share, of the bribe money. Shortly after departing that brief meeting, Zambarano called Burchfield. “Thank you buddy,” Zambarano told Burchfield. “Thank you,” Burchfield interrupted. “Thank you for remembering that,” Zambarano continued. “You're welcome brother. That's it..that...that was it.” “Yup,” Zambarano said. Burchfield continued, “I thought... I thought it was more than that for some reason, but Ray said, no. Alright good... alright... uhm... hopefully in the next couple of weeks we'll be all set with the rest. And the guy made us feel very comfortable, so...”
There was still work to do. I hadn't been paid yet and the Council was yet to take an official vote of approval. But at this point, the three were feeling pretty good. Just prior to the 4:30 p.m. Council meeting Zambarano told me that everything was all set regarding the Lymansville property and that he had $2,000 cash for me. Upon entering Town Hall, I walked into the bathroom to wash my hands only to see Ray Douglas standing at the urinal. Laughing, he said, “Johnny talk to you already?” “Yeah, great news,” I said as the warm water rinsed my lathered hands. “It's always good news, right,” he said laughing. “Honestly, I was in favor of it anyway,” he continued, “I got to be honest with you.” “Be honest with me? That would be a first” I thought to myself as we exited the men's room. We walked into the Council chambers knowing that the vote was just a formality. In fact, the vote was unanimous. It was, after all, a good project worthy of our support.
“I'm Being Followed”
After leaving the council meeting I drove to Zambarano's house to receive my share of the bribe money. It was 7:30 p.m. I had prearranged a meeting with Jim and his colleague Steve Fessel at the Mary Mother of Mankind Church parking lot to hand over my share of the money immediately following the pickup. The church was located deep within a residential neighborhood off Mineral Spring Avenue. Jim and I were familiar with the site but Fessel was not.
Zambarano watched from his living room window as I drove into his driveway and he immediately exited his house and came over to my car. He opened the door and handed me the cash without getting in. “We'll get the rest of it in a couple of weeks,” he told me adding that he trusted them to keep their word.
As I exited the driveway to go meet with Jim, Zambarano got in his white, Ford E250 work van and followed me. A car parked on the street in the distance pulled away from the curb directly behind Zambarano and the three of us formed a caravan as we headed north on Fruit Hill Ave. I watched carefully in my rear view mirror not knowing what Zambarano was up to or who was following behind him. Knowing that there was still a feeling of distrust between Douglas and me, I feared that one of the councilmen might be having me followed to see where I would go after receiving the bribe money. With that in mind, I thought I would take a circuitous route to the church lot to see if they would continue to follow me. Zambarano turned right onto Olney Avenue just a few hundred yards away from his house partially alleviating that fear. The car behind him, however, continued to follow me as I weaved my way toward Mineral Spring Ave. By the time I turned left on Mineral Spring Avenue with the tail still behind me, I was certain that I was being followed. I was also very scared! Knowing that I couldn't go to the church lot, I turned instead into the McDonald's parking lot and headed for their drive-thru. Since it was now close to 8:00 p.m. and we still hadn't eaten supper, I figured it wouldn't be too hard for whoever was in the car behind me to believe that I was stopping to eat. I used the time in the drive-thru line to call Jim. “Where are you,” he demanded. I should have told him I was on my way to Foxwoods Casino, but I was far too nervous to think with clarity. “I'm being followed,” I told him. “I know you are,” he said, “that's our guy!” “You couldn't tell me that before I shit myself,” I thought!! Rather than get into a superfluous discussion over the issue, I left the drive-thru line and headed back onto Mineral Spring Avenue and toward the church leaving my tail waiting for traffic to subside before being able to exit the parking lot.
I parked my SUV in the church lot, exited my vehicle with cash in hand, and got into Jim's car. He asked me to hold onto the bribe money until Agent Fessel arrived. We talked about what was said when Zambarano handed me the bribe money, but several minutes later there was still no sign of the other agent. Jim called him on his cell phone only to learn that he was lost. I arranged to meet him at the Atwood Grille parking lot on Mineral Spring Avenue and lead him back to the church. Five minutes later we all sat in Jim's car and I handed the $2,000 over to be counted and bagged. “I've got to tell you,” I joked, “you don't instill a lot of confidence in me. First I spot your tail and then I lose you!” We all laughed and Jim said, “Believe me, if we wanted to tail you without you noticing us, you wouldn't have noticed us.” After working with them the past few months, I believed him!
While I was meeting with the FBI, Zambarano was calling Douglas to discuss the payment of the additional bribe money. “That guy should come through in another month or so, you think? Zambarano inquired. “He better,” Douglas responded. “He will. The other guy, the other guy stuck his name out for him. He wouldn't put his name out for him unless he thought it was gonna happen,” Douglas continued. Zambarano added, “Yeah, I know. He's in line for some more too, so...” “Yeah, exactly,” Douglas interrupted.
Indiana Wants Me
With this part of the operation over, I looked forward to a little respite that I had planned for a couple of months. My friend, Indiana Secretary of State Todd Rokita, was running for Congress. He had a comfortable lead in the polls, but I had promised that I would fly to Indiana and help work the polls for him during his May 4th primary. It was while I stood outside the polls greeting voters with the salvo, “Please consider supporting Todd Rokita for Congress,” that I received a phone call from Jim. “I just want to let you know that we called John Zambarano in for questioning today,” he told me. “Why would you do that before we got the balance of the bribe money,” I asked. “Won't he just go back and tell Ray and Joe that you questioned him?” “It's possible,” he said, “but trust me, we have our reasons.” I asked a few more questions and hung up a little confused about the FBI's actions. But, over the course of the whole operation I had learned to trust Jim. He was the consummate professional. He knew how to do his job and he never steered me wrong. Besides, I had to focus on the job at hand, the election of Todd Rokita to Congress. I would have plenty of time to think about the case later.
Just about ½ hour before the polling place closed, the campaign coordinator, who drove me from headquarters to the poll, picked me up. After he finished up a few last minute details, we headed off to the hotel Rokita had reserved for the victory party. Indiana politics is different from what I was accustomed to in Rhode Island. The small crowd grew gradually larger as we watched the results on one of several television monitors that dotted the room. I talked with several people that I had become friendly with over the preceding years as we passed the time. Soon, Rokita appeared in the room to speak with the press. Before heading back to his hotel room one of his aids came to my table and told me that the Secretary wanted to speak with me. He led me down the hall and up the elevator to Rokita's suite. There I joined a small group of family, campaign managers and close friends who all watched the results being reported on television. Shortly after 9:00 p.m. it was evident that Rokita bested a field of 5 candidates by garnering over 50% of the vote. After some congratulations accented with hugs and kisses, the entourage made its way downstairs for the celebration and victory speech.
I returned to my hotel shortly before midnight hoping to unwind fast enough to get a good night's sleep. The next morning I had to leave for the airport to catch a mid-day flight to Baltimore, Maryland where I would join Margie who was attending a clinician's conference for Law School Clinic Administrators. I looked forward to 3 or 4 days of fun and relaxation checking out some of the many historical sites in Baltimore and reading. Fate had a different plan for me.
Welcome to Baltimore
I arrived in Baltimore on Wednesday, May 5th at about 2:00. Margie met me at BWI Airport and we made our way back to the conference hotel. I took that time to fill her in on my previous day’s conversation with Jim and we discussed the various reasons why the FBI might let Zambarano know that they were on to him before the balance of the bribe was paid. Upon arriving at the Sheraton Harborside Hotel in Baltimore, I curled up with a good book and Margie returned to one of the conference sessions.
The next day was one of the most relaxing that I had since the entire operation had started over a year and a half ago. I walked into the city and photographed several historic buildings including The Phoenix Shot Tower, the anti-slave flagship the USS Constitution, and St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church, the oldest Catholic Church in America's oldest Catholic diocese. Dedicated in 1841 to accommodate the growing Irish Catholic population east of Jones Falls, its gleaming white Georgian tower has been a visual landmark on the downtown skyline for decades. A little reading and a conference dinner with Margie and some of her colleagues completed the night.
3 Councilmen Arrested
Jim Pitcavage awakened earlier than usual on the morning of May 6, 2010. He adjusted the Glock in his holster, strapped himself into his black sedan and began the drive from his Scituate home to North Providence. A gentle dew still covered the ground when he arrived at the Fruit Hill Plaza. There, several FBI agents and Providence Police Officers met to discuss details of events that were about to unfold. Shortly thereafter, Jim pulled up outside the home of Joe Burchfield. Burchfield must have been finishing the early morning's final dream when the banging on his door awakened him. As he opened it Pitcavage flashed his badge and announced his intention to arrest the Council president. Other FBI agents simultaneously repeated this scene at the homes of Ray Douglas and John Zambarano. The three were rustled up, allowed to quickly dress and hustled off to holding cells in the Federal Building.
My own dream was interrupted at about 6:15 Thursday morning by the annoying ring of my cell phone. In my semi-conscious state I hurriedly fumbled through the contents of the hotel nightstand thinking it might be an emergency back home. Frank Manfredi's voice yelled out excitedly from the other end, “Paul, did you hear the news?” Without waiting for an answer he continued, “Three councilmen were arrested by the FBI this morning.” Then a short pause, “Did you have anything to do with that?” “How do you know they were arrested?” I asked ignoring his question. “I got a call from a police dispatcher,” he said, his voice growing more excited. “The FBI arrested Zambarano, Douglas and Burchfield at their homes this morning.” I had just hung up the phone and started telling Margie what Frank said when the phone rang once again.
“Hi Paul, it's Jim. I only have a minute, but I wanted to let you know that we arrested Zambarano, Douglas and Burchfield this morning. We had to file an affidavit, called “an information,” in order to convene a grand jury. While we don't mention your name in it, it will be relatively obvious to anyone who is familiar with the Town that you might be the confidential source that is cited. You'll probably get a lot of calls from the press and others. The best thing to do is to just say no comment. The only way it can be confirmed that you are the source is if you tell them. You'll be far better off if you simply refuse comment. I'll call you back later and give you more details, but I have to go now.”
I sat on the bed in stunned silence. What did he say, Margie intoned? I filled her in and we looked at each other in disbelief.
Why now, we wondered? Why before the second half of the Lyman Mill pay- off? Why did it have to be before the election? Before Ralph's election!
The arrests set off a chain of calls from just about every local newspaper, radio and television reporter in R.I. and a couple from the national news media. I took none of the calls choosing instead to let them go into my voice mail. Several friends also called, some expressing their hope that I wasn't the confidential source, but most praising my courage and thanking me for my honesty and integrity. I took very few calls, even from my friends, letting most of them flow to voice mail. Though I was safely sitting some 400 miles from the tumultuous confines of North Providence, I knew that life for me and Margie had changed forever.
While I was deflecting phone calls, Burchfield, Douglas and Zambarano were having a bad day. After being led out of their homes in handcuffs in pre-dawn raids, the three were questioned, charged with bribery and extortion, locked into federal cell blocks, and eventually led into the grandeur of the federal court for an afternoon appointment with a judge. The three appeared before Magistrate David Martin where they were still dressed in the clothes that they hurriedly threw on earlier that morning. Burchfield and Douglas darned white and black tee-shirts respectively while Zambarano's white striped Polo shirt still sported the twisted collar that apparently resulted in his haste to get dressed before being led from his house. Each entered a plea of not guilty and was released on $50,000 unsecured bonds. Zambarano was told to remain in Rhode Island while Douglas was allowed to travel to Massachusetts and Connecticut for work and Burchfield was allowed travel to Connecticut to visit family.
A little later that morning I was able to view the information that was filed with the court on the Providence Journal website. It was painfully obvious that I was the con-fidential source, referred to throughout as CS#1; worse, the affidavit all but named John Fleming, identified as NP#1, as the North Providence official that tipped me off. It described in detail how NP#1 brought the trio's bribery discussion to my attention. The affidavit began, “On November 12, 2008, CS#1 went to dinner in Florida with a number of North Providence officials, including BURCHFIELD, DOUGLAS, and ZAMBARANO. After dinner, BURCHFIELD, DOUGLAS and ZAMBARANO, and others went out for drinks. Among those who went out for drinks with BURCHFIELD, DOUGLAS and ZAMBARANO in Florida was a North Providence official whose identity is known to the FBI, (NP#1).” Oh my God, I thought, John must be furious!
By Friday, many in the media had correctly branded the identity of CS#1 and NP#1 by process of elimination. I was the obvious confidential source while the North Providence official was narrowed down to John Fleming or MaryAnn DeAngelus. Since DeAngelus is Zambarano’s sister, her name was pretty much eliminated from consideration. Many reporters openly speculated by using our names in their stories. The arrests and related articles consumed almost the entire front page of Friday's Providence Journal. The blaring headline screamed, “FBI Arrests 3 Councilors on Charges of Extortion.” Several articles framed large photos of the 3 indicted councilmen outside of the Federal Courthouse following their arraignment. On the inside, two additional full-page stories wrapped up the day's coverage. One of the Journal stories, written by investigative reporter Mike Stanton, read,
“The council member who pretended to sell his vote on the Stop & Shop deal was not identified by federal prosecutors, but appears to be Paul Caranci, who also is Rhode Island's Deputy Secretary of State under Secretary of State A. Ralph Mollis, a former North Providence Mayor... Caranci is the only current council member, aside from the three arrested Thursday, who attended the conference, according to Journal interviews with North Providence officials.”
I shook my head and wondered, “Is there a way this could have turned out any worse for me?”
Related Slideshow: Rhode Island’s History of Political Corruption
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.
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...
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- Wired: 1976 to 1979, a Book by Paul F. Caranci
- Wired: 1980 to 1992, a Book by Paul F. Caranci
- Wired: Part 1 & 2 1968 to 1975, a Book by Paul F. Caranci
- GoLocal to Publish “Wired” a New Book by Paul Caranci on Political Corruption
- NEW: Care New England Named Most Wired Healthcare Organization
- Wired: Introduction, a Book by Paul F. Caranci
- Wired: 1994 Through 1996, A Book by Paul Caranci
- Wired: 1997 Through 1998, A Book by Paul Caranci
- Wired: 2002 to 2008 Part 2, A Book by Paul Caranci
- Wired: 2009 Part 1, A Book by Paul Caranci
- Wired: 2002 to 2008 Part 1, A Book by Paul Caranci
- Wired: 2001 to 2002, A Book by Paul Caranci
- Wired: 1999 to 2000, A Book by Paul Caranci
- Wired: 2000 Through 2001, A Book by Paul Caranci
- Wired: 2009 Part 2, A Book by Paul Caranci