Target 12

Cranston man claims mistaken identity in crime spree arrest

CRANSTON, R.I. (WPRI) — The suspect in a string of shoplifting cases that started around the holiday and stretched from Warwick to Woonsocket was a short, Hispanic man with an accent, according to a number of witnesses, with another saying he may have had a neck tattoo.

A North Providence witness told police the culprit stood about 5-foot-5.

All of the above and claims that he has video-backed alibis underscore why the 5-foot-9 Stephen Mignacca and his attorneys are convinced police have the wrong suspect.

"I was shocked when this happened," Mignacca said. "I'm Italian. I have no neck tattoo. I didn't do this."

Mignacca spent about three weeks in the ACI as a probation violator until the violation was withdrawn last month. He believes his criminal record played a role in police zeroing on him. 

"But [the record] is my past," Mignacca said.

Cranston Police Major Todd Patalano and North Providence Deputy Chief Arthur Martins both said there is sufficient probable cause to charge Mignacca.

Patalano said the witness statements indicating the suspect was Hispanic and perhaps shorter than Mignacca were taken into consideration, but he pointed out a Cranston witness "positively identified" Mignacca.

Mignacca and his attorneys Terry McEnaney and Robert McNellis also emphasize he has a "strong alibi" for at least a pair of the incidents, with surveillance video at his place of employment and a fingerprint-detecting time clock device indicating he was at work when two of the crimes were committed.

Cranston, North Providence, Warwick, Smithfield, and Woonsocket referred their cases to the Attorney General's Office.

But even though the crimes in those communities were said to be linked to similar incidents in Providence and Johnston, those departments opted against charging Mignacca.

According to the Attorney General's Office, the charges against Mignacca are currently in the felony screening phase. 

Send tips to Target 12 Investigator Walt Buteau at and follow him on Twitter @wbuteau.

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