PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) - Prominent Rhode Island developer Richard P. Baccari Sr. has been indicted on conspiracy and bribery charges in connection with the ongoing corruption probe into North Providence town government.
A grand jury indicted Baccari, 71, of Narragansett, on one count of conspiracy and one count of bribery, the Rhode Island U.S. Attorney's office said Wednesday in a statement.
Prosecutors allege Baccari, owner of Churchill and Banks Co., paid a $50,000 bribe to three members of the North Providence Town Council to buy their votes in approving a zoning change for a proposed supermarket.
Baccari's company was also charged in the indictment. If proved, the company could be face up to $1 million in fines.
Baccari’s attorney is the famed Boston defense lawyer Anthony Cardinale. He released a statement through spokesperson Patti Doyle, who said she was retained by Churchill and Banks months ago.
"We are shocked that after 3 years of investigation and almost 5 years after the date the offenses were allegedly committed, that the government has decided to bring charges against Richard P. Baccari and Churchill and Banks, LLC," the statement reads. "However, we are completely confident that our clients' innocence will be established at trial."
New York attorney John Mitchell represents Baccari's development company.
A Target 12 investigation in 2011 raised questions about why Baccari had seemingly escaped charges in the scandal. The three councilmen – Joseph Burchfield, Raymond Douglas and John Zambarano – are currently serving federal prison time for their roles in the conspiracy.
According to court documents, the $50,000 bribe was coordinated by Robert Ciresi, a former attorney who is also now serving time in prison for acting as a middleman in the scheme.
A spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney's office declined to comment as to whether the men who've already been convicted in the case are cooperating with investigators.
According to the indictment Baccari initially agreed to pay $25,000 to secure the votes, but Zambarano later increased the price tag to $50,000.
Target 12 obtained secret recordings made by the FBI in this case. In them investigators say Zambarano could be heard bragging about how the bribery scheme went down.
"I went there twice, in this [expletive] guy's office. Face to face with Richard Baccari, negotiating this deal," Zambarano is heard saying on the tapes.
Later he explains to a colleague how the money was paid after they voted to approve the supermarket project.
"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,'" Zambarano says in the recording.
Former North Providence councilman Paul Caranci wore the wire for the FBI to help bring down his corrupt colleagues. Reached by phone Wednesday, Caranci declined to comment about the latest developments.
Baccari is scheduled to be arraigned on Nov. 5 at Providence federal court, according to Cardinale.
The three town councilmen were arrested in 2010 and pleaded guilty a year later for their roles in the kickback scheme. They are currently serving between a 5 and 6 year sentence.
Ciresi's case went to trial in 2011, a federal jury found him guilty of conspiracy, bribery and extortion. He was sentenced to just over five years in prison.
Copyright WPRI 12
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