U.S. Department of Justice
Peter F. Neronha
United States Attorney
District of Rhode Island
March 1, 2011
THREE FORMER NORTH PROVIDENCE TOWN COUNCILMEN, LOCAL BUSINESSMAN
PLEAD GUILTY IN EXTORTION AND BRIBERY SCHEMES
PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Three former North Providence, R.I., town councilmen and a local businessman have pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Providence for their roles in four extortion and bribery schemes in exchange for favorable votes on matters brought before the town council.
United States Attorney Peter F. Neronha and Richard DesLauriers, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Boston Field Office, announced the guilty pleas of former North Providence councilmen Joseph S. Burchfield, Raymond L. Douglas III, and John A. Zambarano, and North Providence businessman Edward Imondi.
Burchfield, Douglas and Imondi entered guilty pleas before U.S. District Court Chief Judge Mary M. Lisi on Monday. Zambarano pleaded guilty on Tuesday.
“These guilty pleas mark a significant step forward in this ongoing corruption investigation. They do not, however, mark its end,” commented U.S. Attorney Peter F. Neronha. “Three public officials, and one who aided them in their bribery/extortion scheme, have now admitted their guilt for their wide-ranging criminal misconduct. The work of my office, the FBI and the rest of the investigative team continues.”
Richard DesLauriers, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Boston Field Office said, “The FBI and its law enforcement partners put an end to an extortion and bribery scheme that was designed to bypass legitimate government processes. In doing so, the defendants illegally tilted the playing field in their favor. The citizens of North Providence elected Mr. Burchfield, Mr. Zambarano, and Mr. Douglas to work for the betterment of the whole community rather than to line their pockets for self-enrichment. This guilty plea and other ongoing public corruption probes reflect the FBI's dedication to deterring and preventing future schemes that involve elected officials.”
At the change of plea hearings, Assistant U.S. Attorney Terrence P. Donnelly told the court that former councilmen Burchfield, Douglas and Zambarano conspired together in a scheme to extort bribes in exchange for favorable council votes on four matters. The schemes detailed in court included 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 a 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, but was never paid; and the attempted extortion of $5,000 from a restaurant owner seeking an extended hours permit that he refused to pay.
Mr. Donnelly told the court that Imondi, acting as a middle man between the developer of a mill complex and the councilmen, delivered $21,000 in bribe money to the councilmen. The cash represented a partial payment of a $75,000 bribe the councilmen demanded in exchange for their favorable votes on a zoning change.
In addition to pleading guilty for his role in the extortion and bribery schemes, Douglas also pleaded guilty to using extortion to collect gambling debts. The defendant admitted that he operated an illegal gambling business in North Providence, which accepted illegal sports wagers on various college and professional sports, and that he used extortion to collect gambling debts.
In addition to pleading guilty for his role in the bribery conspiracy, Zambarano admitted participating in a conspiracy in which it is alleged he and three others devised a scheme to file a fraudulent insurance claim for nearly $50,000 to repair damage to a home they claimed was caused by the historic floods in March 2010. Zambarano admitted that he participated in a conspiracy in which he and others intentionally damaged the home and property of one of the co-conspirators and filed a fraudulent insurance claim, claiming that the damage was caused by the floods.
Burchfield, Douglas and Imondi remain free on bond and are scheduled to be sentenced by Chief District Court Judge Mary M Lisi on May 16, 2011. Zambarano remains free on bond and is scheduled to be sentenced on May 17, 2011. The cases are being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Terrence P. Donnelly and John P. McAdams.
The criminal matters were investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, with the assistance of Rhode Island State Police, Providence Police, DEA, and the Internal Revenue Service - Criminal Investigation Division.