Caranci: I don't regret decision to work with FBI

Caranci: I don't regret decision to work with FBI

NORTH PROVIDENCE - Paul Caranci says his decision to be an informant for the FBI was the most difficult one he's ever made, but one he'll never regret.

Caranci told The Breeze he wrestled with the idea of turning in three colleagues on the Town Council for weeks, trying again and again to get them to reconsider their decision to take bribes, only to be laughed at in return.

It was his wife Margie who eventually helped him make up his mind, said Caranci, reassuring him that the right choice will always prevail.

"The bottom line was, if we don't do this simply to protect the lifestyle that we have, why are we any different from the guys who did it so they could have a better lifestyle?" said Caranci.

If an elected official like he was can't be expected to uphold the laws of the state and the town charter, said Caranci, then all he's doing is spouting "empty words."

"If you take the oath seriously, then it means that you're going to be discomforted," he said.

He and his wife were "prepared for the worst," said Caranci, while "hoping for the best" outcome.

Four years after Councilors Joe Burchfield, Ray Douglas and John Zambarano were arrested on corruption charges, Caranci is facing another challenge in his seemingly endless journey since helping to bust one of the town's most infamous corruption scandals.

Caranci will once again have to testify, this time in the upcoming related corruption case against developer Richard Baccari. Despite the thought of doing it all over again, said Caranci, he remains as convinced as ever that what he did five years ago was right.

Even before Caranci's involvement in the FBI takedown was made known, he and his wife were thinking that they might need to move away, applying for jobs in other states. The temptation has often returned, said Caranci, as people have threatened and intimidated his family verbally and by mail, vandalized his home and cars, and called him every imaginable name.

One of the most common names he's heard is "rat bastard," said Caranci, with many people yelling from their cars asking him how it feels to be one.

Caranci said he was "thrilled" and "stunned" to learn two weeks ago that he'd been nominated for the Margaret Chase Smith American Democracy Award for the courage he showed in the 2010 corruption case in which the three councilmen admitted to taking bribes in exchange for a favorable vote on a zone change to allow a supermarket.

Make no mistake, said Caranci, this nomination is not about vindication, as that would imply that he somehow did something wrong. Contrary to all those who now hate him, this was about doing what was right no matter what the future cost would be.

This was about making a choice he could live with even though he knew that friends he had known for 30 years would stop talking to him, even though he would be seen as a pariah everywhere he went in his hometown.

Caranci's home has twice been vandalized and his cars have been purposely damaged "numerous times." He installed an alarm system and video cameras in response to nails thrown on his front lawn and slashed tires, among other acts.

One of the most chilling experiences has been seeing people just parked outside of his home looking at him as he comes and goes, said Caranci.

"It's been a long road," he said. "I'm looking forward to when it's all over and behind me."

Caranci plans to write a book on his experience with the North Providence corruption case when it's over, explaining himself in a way he simply can't do right now. He looks forward to "getting my story out there," said Caranci, especially in detailing the lengths he went to convince his council colleagues to stop doing what they were doing.

Caranci said he also knew from the beginning how expensive it would be if he got involved.

"I did the right thing but I still have to incur the expense and fight the good fight," he said. "I don't regret it, and I would do it again tomorrow."

Are there any regrets?

"I do regret the actions some people have had and some of the negatives I've had to go through as a result of doing it," said Caranci.

According to a voting form, Caranci was nominated for the Chase Award "for his courage in working with the FBI and other law enforcement entities to expose public corruption and bribery schemes that were masterminded by three of his fellow town councilmen in North Providence, Rhode Island, placing his own political career and personal/family safety at great risk."

The former councilman and current author is the first staff person from a secretary of state's office ever nominated for the award.