PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — A former Rhode Island state senator was sentenced Friday to two years in federal prison for writing millions of dollars worth of bogus checks in a “check-kiting” scheme.
Jamie Doyle, 47, of Pawtucket, pleaded guilty last fall to 31 counts of bank fraud, along with one count each of filing a false tax return and failing to file a tax return.
Doyle told reporters he was “at peace” after the sentence was handed down. He said in court the criminal investigation had turned his life around, as he was previously battling drug and alcohol addiction and has now become sober.
“It certainly was a wake-up call,” Doyle said outside court. “Believe it or not, my life is 100% better today.”
The judge ordered Doyle to pay $426,707 in restitution to three banks and told him to surrender to authorities on April 30 to begin his sentence.
The scheme Doyle admitted to conducting took place between 2013 and 2016 when court documents say he created “false, fictitious and fraudulently inflated balances” in multiple bank accounts at Alliance Blackstone Federal Credit Union, Bristol County Savings Bank and Santander Bank.
Doyle, who ran two businesses at the time called Doyle Respiratory and Doyle Sleep Solutions, was doing up to 50 transactions a day at the banks, writing checks back and forth despite having insufficient funds. During the delay between when he deposited a check and it was returned for insufficient funds, Doyle would draft a new check from that account to pay for a balance in another. He did this tens of thousands of times, prosecutors said.
Doyle’s defense attorney, former Attorney General Jeff Pine, requested Doyle be sentenced to home confinement, allowing him to work and pay off the money he stole from the banks.
Pine also said the CEO of the Alliance credit union, Robert DaSilva, was allowing Doyle to overdraw his account as a courtesy, incurring a $27 fee each time. Pine argued DaSilva and the Alliance could have stopped the behavior, and said multiple bank tellers alerted superiors to the scheme but were told not to put a hold on Doyle’s account or checks.
“They permitted it, enabled it,” Pine told Judge William E. Smith.
But Smith said the credit union’s possible involvement doesn’t discount Doyle’s crimes.
“When you stole from the credit union, you really stole from its members,” Judge Smith said. “Why they let you do that, I don’t know. Maybe it was because of who you were and the power you had.”
Prosecutor Dulce Donovan said Doyle was “exploiting” the leadership of the bank, arguing they were likely reluctant to take action because he was a state senator from a well-known Pawtucket family. His father, former Pawtucket Mayor James Doyle, died in 2017.
Outside court, U.S. Attorney Aaron Weisman confirmed his office was “looking into” the situation with DaSilva, though he declined to say if a formal investigation was underway.
Reached by phone at his new job at a different bank, DaSilva declined to comment.
Prior to the sentencing, Doyle apologized to the government, his family and his former constituents.
“I let them down with my addiction struggles,” Doyle said. “I am convinced that this was my last and final wake up call…some people need a tap on the shoulder, others need three federal agents knocking on your door.”
He emphasized that he was in constant communication with the Alliance bank leadership during the scheme, but took ultimate responsibility for the crimes.
“I made the poor choice to write those checks, and I pled guilty as charged,” Doyle said.
Smith said while he doesn’t think Doyle is a “bad or evil person” and applauded his sobriety, he said it “cannot excuse the crime” and declined to spare him prison time.
“There’s no sugar coating it, you stole nearly a half million dollars,” Smith said. He compared him to former state Rep. Ray Gallison, currently serving his own federal sentence.
“You abused your trust as a public official,” Smith said. “Even if it’s not directly related to your office, you let your constituents down.”
“This was not directly related to any public service,” Pine told reporters afterwards. “Mr. Doyle apologized to his constituents for letting them down.”
U.S. Attorney Weisman said the sentence “sends the right message.”
“He was a public official,” Weisman said. “We appreciate his expression of remorse, there’s no question about it. We do think in this case, a sentence of 24 months was certainly appropriate.”
Doyle resigned his state Senate seat in January 2018, citing his alcoholism, and was replaced in a Pawtucket special election by Sen. Sandra Cano. He was first elected to the Senate in 2004.