Developer Richard Baccari, Churchill & Banks Companies Indicted on Federal Conspiracy and Bribery Charges in Ongoing North Providence Municipal Corruption Probe
Grand Jury Indictment Alleges Baccari and His Development Firm Paid a $50,000 Bribe in Return for Favorable Council Votes for a Zoning Variance
|U.S. Attorney’s Office October 23, 2013|
PROVIDENCE, RI—A federal grand jury in Providence today returned a two-count indictment that charges Richard P. Baccari, Sr., 71, of Narragansett, president and chief executive pfficer of Churchill & Banks Companies LLC, and his company, Churchill & Banks Companies, each with one count of conspiracy and one count of bribery, announced United States Attorney Peter F. Neronha and Vincent B. 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 S. Burchfield, Raymond L. Douglas, III, and John A. 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 S. Ciresi, a former attorney who was convicted and is imprisoned for his role in the bribery scheme.
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 February 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 2008 and came before the council on several occasions before a vote to approve the zoning change occurred on February 10, 2009. The vote to approve the project was 7-0. According to the indictment, the bribe money was delivered by Ciresi, on Richard Baccari’s and Churchill & Bank’s behalf, to Zambarano shortly after the council’s vote. Disbursement of the bribe money was completed the next day.
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.
Former councilmen Joseph Burchfield, Raymond Douglas, III, and John Zambarano were arrested by FBI agents on May 6, 2010. In March 2011, Burchfield, Douglas, and Zambarano pled guilty to their roles in the kickback scheme and are currently serving sentences ranging from 64 to 78 months in federal prison.
Robert Ciresi was convicted by a federal court jury in April 2011 of conspiracy, bribery, and Hobbs Act extortion, and he is currently serving a sentence of 63 months in federal prison.
If convicted of conspiracy, Richard Baccari faces statutory penalties of up to five years’ imprisonment; a fine of up to $250,000; and up to three years’ supervised release. If convicted of bribery, Baccari faces statutory penalties of up to 10 years’ imprisonment; a fine of up to $250,000; and up to three years’ supervised release.
If convicted, Churchill & Banks Companies LLC faces statutory fines of up to a total of $1,000,000.
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.