PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – A judge has ordered banking crisis figure Joseph Mollicone to pick up the pace in his restitution payments after the convicted embezzler has fallen behind in his monthly checks to the state.
Mollicone, 80, of Warwick, appeared before Magistrate Judge Gina Lopes on Tuesday at R.I. Superior Court in Providence for a biannual “restitution review.” In January, Lopes denied Mollicone’s request to reduce his monthly payments of $270. Mollicone cited financial woes.
Despite Lopes’ denial, court records show Mollicone’s payments – while timely – fell to $110 for several months, then in July he paid merely $60, followed by $50 in both August and September.
On Tuesday, Lopes gave the defendant until Dec. 13 to make good on the shortfall of $1,610. Still, the amount is a drop in the bucket to the more than $12 million he owes Rhode Island for his misdeeds.
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So far, Mollicone has only paid $51,278 toward his $12 million tab, according to court spokesperson Lexi Kriss. Based on his current pace, it would take the one-time fugitive more than 4,500 years to make the state whole again.
According to investigators, Mollicone began methodically siphoning money from his Federal Hill bank, Heritage Loan and Investment Co., starting in at least 1986.
In all, the attorney general’s office alleged Mollicone took $15.2 million over a five-year period, though he was prosecuted for only $12 million.
In a 2016 interview with Target 12, former prosecutor Kevin Bristow said Mollicone used the money to live “a good life” and on bad investments.
“He would go into the vault if he was leaving for Las Vegas with two or three men that he wanted to impress, people he viewed as potential co-investors,” Bristow recalled at the time. “He’d basically clean out the vault, go to a first-class place [and] buy everybody $800 leather jackets.”
Eventually the money ran out and examiners from the Rhode Island Share and Deposit Indemnity Corporation – a private insurance fund – realized the bank was essentially out of cash. Mollicone was told they were contacting law enforcement, and in November 1990 he fled.
Investigators blamed Mollicone’s institution for igniting the crisis that brought down RISDIC. On Jan. 1, 1991, within an hour of taking office, newly inaugurated Gov. Bruce Sundlun ordered 45 banks closed, leaving hundreds of thousands of depositors locked out of their own money. The state sales tax subsequently increased from 6% to 7%, where it has since remained.
As Target 12 was first to report, Mollicone was hiding out under an assumed name John Fazioli in Salt Lake City, Utah. Fazioli was the name of someone he knew as a child, but had died before Mollicone went on the lam.
In a 1994 prison interview, Mollicone told Target 12 that Utah was a random choice. “There was really no reason other than I had flown there before,” he said at the time. “Nothing of consequence.”
As in Rhode Island, Mollicone’s money ran out after he drained his girlfriend’s bank account there, and he eventually surrendered to Rhode Island authorities in April 1992.
The following year a jury convicted Mollicone on 26 criminal counts including fraud and embezzlement. A judge sentenced him to 30 years at the ACI, of which he served 10 before being released on parole in 2002.
At Tuesday’s hearing Mollicone was also assigned a public defender for the first time in the long travel of the case, an indication that he can no longer afford a private attorney. His lawyer declined comment following the hearing.
Lopes scheduled another restitution review for December.