In the wake of this federal corruption crackdown, two different cases were launched by the U.S. Attorney's Office, seven people have pleaded guilty and another was convicted by a jury.
For the first time, Eyewitness News reveals the secret conversations picked up by an FBI bug . They tell the story of the bribe that ultimately led to three town councilmen pleading guilty. But there are still questions about where the money came from and why that person has not been charged.
The recordings in this case began on Jan. 27, 2009 when former councilman Paul Caranci agreed to wear a wire for the FBI. The recordings reveal Caranci dealt mainly with former North Providence Town Councilman John Zambarano.
In one recorded conversation, Zambarano tells Caranci he deserved a bigger cut of the bribe because he claims he had two meetings with developer Richard Baccari.
Zambarano: "I went there twice, in this [expletive] guy's office. Face to face with Richard Baccari negotiating this deal. I said, 'you know what guys? I put my [expletive] On the line over here.' [...] I'll be honest, I got a few thousand more than anybody."
In another conversation, recorded in a car, Zambarano instructs Caranci on how to vote to get a cut of the bribe.
Zambarano: "Now it's going to be four of us. If you come tomorrow night, go along with the show and vote for everything, we'll give you four thousand dollars."
While Eyewitness News cannot confirm Zambarano's accusations on the recordings, they come directly from court documents and were key in the successful prosecution of the case.
The superseding indictment against the three town councilmen refers to "an unindicted co-conspirator" investigators called "John Doe #1." It alleges "John Doe #1" agreed to pay $25,000 in exchange for the councilmen's votes to approve a controversial supermarket. During the trial of disgraced and convicted lawyer Robert Ciresi, prosecutors told the courts they believe Rochard Baccari was "John Doe #1."
In the FBI recordings, Zambarano gives details about the meeting he claimed to have with Baccari.
Zambarano: "When I went down to Richard's it was the first time I ever did something like that, right? And he said 'come on in, come on in.' Now Bobby was like, Bobby Ciresi is like this with him so he knew and Bobby says 'he does this all the time John, but you got to go talk to him.' [...] I met Bobby Ciresi down there, we get in the room... I thought we were going to have this three-man talk. He said to Bobby, 'leave the room.' And he's like this with Bobby."
Caranci: So it's just you and him?
Zambarano: He says "what's it gonna take?"
Caranci: Oh, so he asked you?
Zambarano: Yeah. "What's it gonna take?"
Caranci: That makes it easy.
In another recorded conversation, Zambarano tells Caranci his version of how he said he was paid off moments after the North Providence Town Council voted to approve the supermarket project.
Zambarano: "So I call Bobby on his cellphone and say 'what's the plan?' He said, 'meet him down there in parking lot.' So I go down there. I was in this car, right? I pull up, his Mercedes, whatever, was parked this way. I pulled up close close, I opened up the window, he threw the money in a bag right on my lap, he says, "thank you, bud."
Caranci: "Oh my word. It's like the movies."
By all accounts, the person who supplied the cash for the bribe has never been charged but it's clear the U.S. Attorney's office points the finger at Baccari. According to trial transcripts, prosecutor John McAdams said in court, "when [Robert Ciresi] Learned that Baccari wanted to bribe Zambarano, what choice did he make? [...] He would rather be seen as a stand-up guy by the likes of Richard Baccari and John Zambarano than be labeled a rat like Paul Caranci."
Target 12 reviewed court records and case evidence and uncovered a number of challenges prosecutors faced in pursuing Baccari. For one, Zambarano was convicted of "making false statements" to a federal agent. In other words the disgraced councilman was a convicted liar.
Further, prosecutors said it wasn't Baccari who physically delivered the cash the night the town council voted to approve the supermarket but rather Ciresi, who now sits in a prison cell.
There are still questions surrounding Zambarano's claims that he met with Baccari. In multiple recordings Zambarano repeatedly tells Caranci about the conversation he claimed to have had with Baccari in his office.
Zambarano: "He says to me, 'you deliver the four votes, I'll give you the $25,000.' I says, 'I'll get 'em done.'
Rhode Island U.S. Attorney Peter Neronha declined to be interviewed for this report. In a statement, spokesman Jim Martin said its policy "not to comment on on-going investigations.
Whether or not additional charges will be brought in the future in this matter is unknown at this time."
Target 12 reached out to Richard Baccari repeatedly for comment. Through his attorney he denied our requests for an interview.
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