The week that was

The week that was

Archeologist hired in North Smithfield charged with forging PhD

An archeologist and a former University of Rhode Island instructor hired by the town in 2007 to examine property owned by Narragansett Improvement Co. has been charged with perjury, forgery and obtaining money under false pretenses for allegedly faking his academic credentials.

Frederick F. Meli offered the North Smithfield Town Council a r?©sum?© and a copy of a diploma from the University of Massachusetts when seeking the job, according to state police. Meli was asked to examine the area surrounding Nipsachuck Swamp to identify if there were Native American burial grounds on the property and was paid $4,310 for his services.

Meli initially reported that he believed rock formations found in the area were ancient grave sites and the town denied Narragansett Improvement's request to a build a 122 lot housing facility on the property. The developer argued that the stones were actually left by in piles by early European settlers attempting to clear the land for farming or logging, a conclusion that has yet to be disproven by experts from the Rhode Island Historical Preservation & Heritage Commission. Meli later backed away from his conclusion that the rock mounds were Native American burial grounds.

Narragansett Improvement later sued the town for the decision, and in the resulting trial Meli testified under oath that he had earned a PhD from the University of Massachusetts. An investigation by the Rhode Island State Police Financial Crimes Unit has since revealed that Meli did not earn a PhD from the college and his diploma had been forged, according to police. Clarifying Meli's relationship with URI, spokesman David Lavallee told The Valley Breeze Meli had worked on a "per-course" basis for the university, a position described as temporary and not carrying the same status as professor, assistant professor or even adjunct professor. He was not a "retired professor," Lavallee said.

He was taken into custody Wednesday and appeared before Judge William C. Clifton of District Court. Meli was released pending a further court appearance.

Two indicted for alleged robbery and shootout in Woonsocket

The men involved in an alleged shootout on West Park Place last fall could face a mandatory minimum of 10 years and up to life in federal prison.

A federal grand jury in Providence has returned a three-count indictment charging Tyronne Seams, 28, of Woonsocket, and David Bunnell, 21, of Franklin, Mass. with allegedly participating in a conspiracy and Hobbs Act Robbery and with discharging firearms during a crime of violence during an alleged robbery and shootout inside a Woonsocket residence in Sept. 2013.

The indictment, which charges Seams and Bunnell with one count each of conspiracy to commit Hobbs Act robbery, Hobbs Act robbery and use and discharge of a firearm in furtherance of crimes of violence, was announced by United States Attorney Peter F. Neronha and Woonsocket Police Chief Thomas S. Carey.

According to documents filed with the court, in the early morning hours of Sept. 12, 2013, Woonsocket Police responded to reports of gunfire at a multi-family residence. Upon arrival, Woonsocket officers encountered Seams and Bunnell allegedly attempting to leave the building. As police arrived, Seams and Bunnell allegedly fled back inside the building.

Officers reportedly located Bunnell in the basement, where they also seized a sawed-off shotgun and a 9mm semi-automatic pistol. Seams was located on the floor of a second-floor landing suffering from an apparent gun shot. Police seized a packet containing approximately 80 grams of cocaine from Seams' pocket and a .41 caliber revolver was located nearby. Inside a second-floor apartment officers discovered a substantial amount of blood; numerous spent shell casings from at least two firearms; bullet holes in the kitchen counter, bathroom door and bathroom wall; an individual with a head wound from blunt force trauma; and materials allegedly associated with the preparation and sale of drugs. Another individual who allegedly suffered a gunshot wound while at the residence made his way out of the building before police arrived and drove himself to a nearby hospital.

Information presented to the court stated that the investigation revealed that Seams and Bunnell allegedly forcibly stole cocaine from inside the apartment and allegedly inflicted physical violence on persons inside the apartment in the course of the robbery. Seams and Bunnell have been detained since their arrest. They were scheduled to be arraigned in U.S. District Court on April 16, 2014. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Milind M. Shah. Woonsocket Police were assisted in the investigation by agents and officers from ATF, the DEA Drug Task Force, Rhode Island State Police, North Smithfield Police Department and the Franklin and Blackstone, Mass., Police Departments.