Baccari, Churchill & Banks indicted for conspiracy and bribery

Baccari, Churchill & Banks indicted for conspiracy and bribery

Charges stem from North Providence corruption scandal

PROVIDENCE – A federal grand jury in on Wednesday returned a two-count indictment charging developer Richard Baccari Sr., 71, president and chief executive officer of Churchill & Banks Companies LLC, and his company, Churchill & Banks Companies, with one count each of conspiracy and one count of bribery.

The charges were announced by U.S. Attorney Peter Neronha and Vincent Lisi, special agent in charge of the Boston field office of the FBI.

The indictment, a result of the ongoing investigation into municipal corruption in North Providence, alleges that Baccari and his company paid a $50,000 bribe to three now federally convicted and imprisoned North Providence town councilmen, Joseph Burchfield, Raymond Douglas III, and John Zambarano, in exchange for enough favorable council votes to approve a zoning change to a six-acre parcel of land for the development of a supermarket. The indictment alleges that Baccari and Churchill & Banks paid the bribe through a middle-man, Robert Ciresi, a former attorney who was convicted and is imprisoned for his role in the bribery scheme.

The indictment comes just as Smithfield Town Council members continue holding a series of controversial, closed-doors meetings as they negotiate with Churchill & Banks over a major commercial center of residences, stores and a hotel on Route 44.

According to the indictment, the three councilmen, Burchfield, Douglas and Zambarano, allegedly planned the bribe solicitation during a series of telephone conversations and meetings with one another and with Ciresi. The indictment alleges Ciresi was used by the councilmen as a middleman to facilitate communications between Richard Baccari and John Zambarano.

The indictment alleges that in October 2008, Ciresi accompanied Zambarano to Baccari’s office at Churchill & Banks for the purpose of discussing a bribe to secure the votes needed for the zoning change. The indictment alleges that Zambarano asked for and Baccari agreed to pay a $25,000 bribe in exchange for Zambarano delivering four council member votes in favor of the zoning change. It is alleged in the indictment that between October 2008 and Feb. 9, 2009, Zambarano asked Baccari through Ciresi to increase the bribe amount to $50,000. According to the indictment, Baccari agreed.

The supermarket project was first presented to the Town Council in early October of 2008, and came before the council on several occasions before a vote to approve the zoning change occurred on Feb. 10, 2009. The vote to approve the project was 7-0.

According to the indictment, the bribe money was delivered by Ciresi, on behalf of Richard Baccari and Churchill & Banks, to Zambarano shortly after the council’s vote. Disbursement of the bribe money was completed the next day.

An indictment is an allegation and is not evidence of guilt. A defendant is entitled to a fair trial in which it will be the government’s burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Burchfield, Douglas, and Zambarano were arrested by FBI agents on May 6, 2010. In March 2011, all three pleaded guilty to their roles in the kickback scheme and are currently serving sentences ranging from 64 to 78 months in federal prison.

Ciresi was convicted by a federal court jury in April 2011 of conspiracy, bribery and Hobbs Act extortion, and is currently serving a sentence of 63 months in federal prison.

If convicted of conspiracy, Richard Baccari faces statutory penalties of as many as five years imprisonment; a fine as much as $250,000; and as many as three years supervised release. If convicted of bribery, he faces statutory penalties of as many as10 years imprisonment; a fine as much as $250,000 and as many as three years supervised release.

If convicted, Churchill & Banks Companies, LLC faces statutory fines of as much as $1 million.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Terrence P. Donnelly and John P. McAdams.

The matter is being investigated by the FBI, with the assistance of Rhode Island State Police, Providence Police, DEA, and the Internal Revenue Service - Criminal Investigation.

Comments

Subject line says it all. For the past two years this contractor has been allowed to continue doing business, when he's just as guilty as the politicians who took the money.