PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Former state Rep. Ray Gallison has agreed to plead guilty to nine criminal charges following a lengthy grand-jury investigation into years of financial misdeeds, federal and state investigators announced Monday.
U.S. Attorney Peter Neronha, Attorney General Peter Kilmartin and other officials made the announcement at a morning news conference just after documents were filed in federal court in Providence.
“At bottom, he lied and he stole, in a variety of ways and from a variety of people,” Neronha said.
The charges against Gallison, 64, involve taking $678,000 from the estate of a man named Ray Medley and nearly $9,000 from a disabled individual’s trust fund, as well as misuse of funds from his taxpayer-funded nonprofit, Alternative Educational Programming (AEP), and tax violations.
Gallison’s attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
He faces a mandatory minimum of two years in prison, up to a maximum of 111 years, along with a fine of $1.8 million and three years of supervised release, according to the plea agreement, which Gallison signed Jan. 11. He will “be ordered to make full restitution,” according to Neronha.
“Ray Gallison was greedy – pure and simple,” Kilmartin said. “He stole from his clients, people who considered him a trusted attorney and a trusted friend. That greed caught up with him.”
Gallison is the third former House lawmaker to be prosecuted in the last week and a half, following the indictment of former Rep. John Carnevale for perjury relating to his residency and the arrest of former Rep. Peter Palumbo for filing false documents related to his campaign account.
Gallison, a Bristol Democrat first elected in 2000, abruptly resigned from the General Assembly last May under a cloud of suspicion after House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello said he was confronted about his behavior.
Gallison was serving at the time as chairman of the powerful House Finance Committee, one of the most important jobs in the legislature. He had previously been fined $6,000 by the Rhode Island Ethics Commission in 2007 for failing to disclose his employment with AEP, and his legal work has also come under scrutiny.
AEP received $2.3 million from state taxpayers between 2003 and 2016, but the evidence presented Monday suggests it was not all being used for its intended purpose. Investigators say AEP reported spending $78,000 to assist 47 students in the 2012-13 academic year but actually spent barely $3,000 to assist two students, while nearly $65,000 went to Gallison and an associate “for no work undertaken on AEP’s behalf.”
Some of Gallison’s activity was interrelated. Investigators say in June 2013 he took nearly $9,000 from the disabled person’s trust fund and transferred it to AEP, which owed CCRI money for tuition payments. They say he did not reimburse the trust fund until last April, two weeks after investigators interviewed him for the case.
Medley was an unmarried man with few close associates who described Gallison as a “good friend” in his will. After he died in 2012, investigators allege Gallison repeatedly robbed his estate, pocketing the proceeds from stocks, pawn shop transactions, a car and more. The money was supposed to go to various charities.
Neronha remarked: “There are those who have said, and will likely say again, that criminal conduct like that alleged against former Rep. Gallison should cause Rhode Islanders less concern, because such criminal conduct occurred in connection with his private life and not in connection with his work as a state representative. … I completely reject that way of thinking.”
“Let me be very clear – if you are a public official and you think your office is an opportunity for criminal behavior – think again,” said Kilmartin, who is himself a former House lawmaker. “If you violate the public’s trust, and you think your position of power will shield your actions, you could not be more wrong. You will be investigated, caught, and you will be properly prosecuted.”
The Gallison case is now closed and no further prosecutions stemming from it are planned, they said.
John Marion, executive director of the good-government group Common Cause Rhode Island, decried the latest legislative prosecution and called on the R.I. Board of Elections and the R.I. Ethics Commission to conduct immediate audits of lawmakers’ financial disclosures and campaign accounts.
“Rhode Island can no longer afford to wait for law enforcement to step in and clean up the mess after the public trust has been betrayed,” Marion said.
Gov. Gina Raimondo described the Gallison charges as “disappointing news,” while Speaker Mattiello commended Neronha and Kilmartin “for their diligent work in identifying, investigating and rooting out illegal behavior.”
“Elected officials must be held to the highest standard,” Mattiello said. “When they cross the line, they should be investigated and prosecuted.”
The case has already had far-reaching effects. Following Gallison’s resignation, lawmakers overhauled and shrank the grant program AEP had used. They also restored the R.I. Ethics Commission’s full authority to police conflicts of interest among General Assembly members, and dozens of rank-and-file lawmakers had to fix errors on their own financial disclosure forms.
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Gallison has been licensed to practice law in Massachusetts but not Rhode Island. He also previously worked for the state. He served as grand marshal of the Bristol 4th of July Parade in 2015. Susan Donovan, a fellow Bristol Democrat, won his District 69 seat in last November’s election.
Ted Nesi (email@example.com) covers politics and the economy for WPRI.com. He writes Nesi’s Notes on Saturdays and hosts Executive Suite. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram Tim White ( firstname.lastname@example.org ) is the Target 12 investigative reporter and host of Newsmakers for WPRI 12 and Fox Providence. Follow him on Twitter and on Facebook