U.S. Department of Justice
Peter F. Neronha
United States Attorney
District of Rhode Island
August 23, 2010
Not Guilty Pleas in North Providence Corruption Probe
PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Former North Providence town councilmen Joseph S. Burchfield, Raymond L. Douglas III and John A. Zambarano pleaded not guilty Monday in U.S. District Court in Providence to conspiracy, extortion and bribery charges. A federal grand jury handed up a superseding indictment Thursday, alleging the defendants and others extorted bribes from several businesses appearing before the town council. Zambarano also pleaded not guilty to making a false statement to the FBI.
The not guilty pleas, which were entered before U.S. District Court Magistrate Judge David L. Martin, were announced by U.S. Attorney Peter F. Neronha. The defendants remain free on unsecured bond.
The alleged conspiracy includes four extorted bribe attempts, including a $25,000 bribe in exchange for a supermarket development zoning change; a $75,000 bribe in exchange for a zoning change which would permit residential development at an old mill in the Lymansville section of North Providence (of which $21,000 in cash was delivered); the attempted extortion of $3,000 from a bar owner seeking a liquor license (the bribe was not paid); and the attempted extortion of $5,000 from a restaurant owner seeking an extended hours permit (the bribe was not paid).
In addition to the conspiracy charge, the indictment charges each defendant as it relates to their roles in each of the four alleged extortion and bribery schemes. The indictment also includes asset forfeiture allegations which seek to recoup $46,000 in bribe money.
The matter continues to be investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. U.S. Attorney Peter F. Neronha once again urged anyone with knowledge related to the conduct alleged to contact the FBI. He noted, “The investigation is not over. Anyone with information would do well to step forward.”
Potential maximum sentences for each charge contained in the indictment include 5 years in federal prison, 3 years supervised release and a $250,000 fine for conspiracy; 10 years in federal prison, 3 years supervised release and a $250,000 fine for bribery; 20 years in federal prison, 5 years supervised release and a $250,000 fine for extortion; and 5 years in federal prison, 3 years supervised release and a $250,000 fine for false statement to a federal agent.
Also named in the indictment are Attorney Robert S. Ciresi, 77, of Hope, R.I., and Edward Imondi, 73, of North Providence, R.I., who allegedly acted as middlemen. The indictment alleges that both Ciresi and Imondi received a portion of the respective bribes they delivered. They are scheduled to be arraigned in U.S. District Court on Wednesday.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys John P. McAdams and Terrence P. Donnelly.
Rhode Island State Police, Providence Police, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Division have also assisted in the investigation.
An indictment is merely 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.