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Former Providence councilman, on probation for embezzlement, hired by Central Falls

Politics - Government

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Former Providence City Councilman Luis Aponte, who was forced to resign from his elected position because of a felony embezzlement conviction in 2019, has been hired as a top public works official for the city of Central Falls.

Aponte confirmed his new job in a brief phone interview with Target 12. He said his new title is deputy director of public works and code enforcement. He said he started the job earlier this month but is currently in quarantine due to COVID-19.

Asked about his hiring, newly inaugurated Mayor Maria Rivera said she wanted to give Aponte a second chance.

“Luis has over 20 years of municipal leadership in urban and multilingual communities dealing with the daily challenges of safe and affordable housing and quality public services,” Rivera said in a statement. “As a woman of faith, I believe in mercy and second chances, and I am confident that Luis will make the most of this opportunity as we strive to meet our important goals of creating clean and safe streets and tackling vacant and blighted property.”

He also served on Rivera’s transition team after she was elected mayor, according to her website.

Aponte, a Democrat, was serving as president of the Providence City Council when he was indicted in 2017 for felony embezzlement, accused of spending nearly $14,000 worth of campaign donations on personal expenses.

He initially refused to resign as council president, but eventually stepped down from the leadership post. However, he remained on the council until he was required to resign in 2019 as a result of a plea deal struck about a month before his trial was set to begin.

Aponte received no jail time as a result of his agreement with prosecutors, but is currently serving a 4.5-year probation sentence.

At the time of his conviction, Attorney General Peter Neronha called Aponte’s actions “public corruption” that erodes the public’s trust in government.

“Using one’s campaign fund to pay personal expenses is a form of public corruption because it may lead to improper influence over official acts, particularly by large-scale donors to whom the public official may feel particularly indebted,” Neronha said.

Mayor Jorge Elorza also said Aponte had “violated the trust” of the people of Providence.

Aponte still owes the R.I. Board of Elections $50,909, according to campaign finance director Ric Thornton, as a result of fines levied because of his campaign finance violations. The Board of Elections forwarded the case to the Attorney General’s office for criminal prosecution in 2016.

Aponte said he has been working security since he resigned from the City Council. His salary in his new job in Central Falls is $50,439, according to a spokesperson.

He also receives a $502 monthly pension from the city of Providence.

Steph Machado (smachado@wpri.com) covers Providence, politics and more for WPRI 12. Connect with her on Twitter and on Facebook

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