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DMV leader’s lawyer disputes ownership of building targeted in prostitution raid

Target 12

CRANSTON, R.I. (WPRI) – While R.I. Division of Motor Vehicles administrator Walter “Bud” Craddock has publicly described himself as the landlord of a property busted last month by police investigating prostitution, his lawyer is now trying to distance him from the building and its tenants.

Cranston Police Col. Michael Winquist sent letters on June 25 to the owners of six properties raided last month as part of a sweeping investigation into illegal sex-for-pay operations. One of the letters — obtained by Target 12 through a public records request — was addressed to Craddock, who has said he owns and rents one of the raided properties: 1732 Broad St.

In the letter, Winquist detailed how an illegal spa business, Youna Foot Reflexology, had been illegally offering massages without a license at his Broad Street property and “engaging in prostitution activity, possibly tied to human/labor trafficking.”  

“You are being notified of the alleged activity your tenants are engaged in on your property,” Winquist wrote. “You may be the subject of criminal charges if these, or any, tenants continue to operate illegally.”

Attorney Charles “Chuck” Tamuleviz quickly responded on Craddock’s behalf, arguing it’s inaccurate to suggest Craddock owns the Broad Street property.  

“Indeed, he has never owned the property,” Tamuleviz wrote in a July 1 letter to Winquist. “The property at the address is owned by LUC Realty Holdings, LLC, of which Mr. Craddock is a member.”

“As such, the tenants are not his either,” he added.

Tamuleviz did not immediately respond to a question about why he believes the distinction of ownership is important to convey. Generally speaking, real estate companies are often created to protect owners’ personal assets from the liability of their investment properties.  

In other words, if a rental property owned through a real estate company gets caught up in a legal jam, the owner’s personal finances and home are better shielded against legal recourse. There are also tax benefits to setting up real estate companies, especially if a person or a group of people own multiple investment properties.

LUC Realty Holdings owns at least five properties in Cranston, according to the local assessor’s database. Craddock registered the real estate holdings company in 2016 and he is the listed principal, according to the state’s database of corporations.  

Property records also show the company shares an address with the Cranston home of Craddock and his wife, Lynne Urbani-Craddock, whose initials match the company’s name. Urbani-Craddock also works for the state, serving as the policy director of the R.I. House of Representatives. The couple earns a combined $300,000, according to payroll records.

For his part, Craddock has acknowledged in multiple interviews with news outlets that he owns and rents the Broad Street property, confirming through a spokesperson that he collected rent in cash from the tenant each month. But the DMV administrator has denied any knowledge of the alleged activities happening inside the property.

Craddock, who served in the Cranston Police Department for 26 years and retired as chief of police, claims nobody ever notified him about what was going on, even after the property was raided for the same reason in 2017 – a year after he purchased it.

Also in 2017, the Cranston City Council rejected a business license application at the Broad Street property, citing concerns of illegal activity, meaning the spa business has been illegally operating there ever since. Craddock said he didn’t know his tenant didn’t have a license — a point that was reiterated in Tamuleviz’s letter to Winquist.

“At the time LUC Realty Holdings, LLC purchased the property in 2016 it was understood that the tenant was in fact licensed,” Tamuleviz argued.

Tamuleviz’s effort to establish a buffer between Craddock and the property and tenants comes amid an ongoing R.I. State Police investigation into the administrator and whether he has any direct ties to the Broad Street operation. Gov. Dan McKee last month directed the state police to investigate whether Craddock had any knowledge or involvement in the suspected sex-for-pay operation.

At the time, McKee expressed concerned regarding the allegations of human trafficking. But he nonetheless chose to keep Craddock in his position at head of the DMV, pending the outcome of the investigation.

“You’re innocent until proven guilty,” McKee said during a June 22 news conference. “But we are taking it serious and we are looking at all the possibilities that revolve around that situation.”

On Monday, State Police Col. James Manni told Target 12 the investigation is ongoing and there is no clear timeline for when it will be completed. Winquist said his department has provided information and material from its local investigation to the state police.

“We are in communication with the state police,” Winquist said. “We have provided them documents generated as a result of the raids.”

Cranston police reported seizing thousands of dollars in cash, a cellphone and a business ledger from the Broad Street property last month, according to court documents.

Craddock, meanwhile, has said he looks forward to the state police investigation. His spokesperson Patti Doyle last month said the investigation “will demonstrate emphatically that he knew nothing about alleged illegal activities at a rental apartment he owns.”

The administrator has also taken steps to evict the tenant, who Craddock said had been renting the property since he purchased the building in 2016. He sent a notice of termination letter last month, detailing why the tenant has to get out of the property by July 15.

The letter, written on LUC Realty Holdings letterhead, was signed by Craddock.

Eli Sherman (esherman@wpri.com) is an investigative reporter for WPRI 12. Connect with him on Twitter and on Facebook.

Tim White (twhite@wpri.com) is the Target 12 managing editor and chief investigative reporter at 12 News, and the host of Newsmakers. Connect with him on Twitter and Facebook

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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