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Luis Aponte’s ethics fine paid after civil arrest

Target 12
Elections Coverage on WPRI.com

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Former Providence City Councilman Luis Aponte was handcuffed and taken to court Wednesday morning over his unpaid ethics fine, finally prompting him to pay it off.

Target 12 was there as sheriffs took Aponte into custody at his Indiana Avenue home at 9 a.m. Wednesday. He was arrested on what’s called a “body attachment,” a civil warrant for law enforcement to bring a person to court.

“We command you to attach the body of the defendant … to answer for contempt in failing or refusing to appear for a citation hearing,” the warrant said.

Aponte was the subject of a small claims case filed by the Rhode Island Central Collections Unit after he failed to pay a $1,500 ethics fine he had agreed to pay as part of a settlement last year. The ethics violation was over a City Council vote he cast on a zoning change that would benefit his own landlord.

The R.I. Ethics Commission sent the unpaid fines to the Central Collections Unit, which had been trying to get Aponte to respond for months, according to spokesperson Paul Grimaldi.

“He’s been ignoring letters and direct calls from the Central Collections Unit informing him that this was happening,” Grimaldi said. “It was time to pay.”

The unit, which was established last year, was set up to track down debtors who owe money to the state. The state filed suit against Aponte in March to try and collect his unpaid ethics fine. The body attachment was the “last step,” Grimaldi said.

Shortly after Aponte’s arrest, Grimaldi said an unknown person walked into Central Collections and paid off the fine, which had grown to nearly $1,700.

Aponte, who was waiting in a cell block in Providence District Court, did not have to come up to the courtroom once the court received word that the fine was paid.

Aponte did not immediately respond to a phone call requesting comment. His attorney in the small claims matter, Steven DeLuca, declined comment.

The ethics fine was not Aponte’s final outstanding legal matter. The former council president still owes nearly $51,000 to the Rhode Island Board of Elections (BOE) for repeatedly failing to file campaign finance reports.

Aponte has filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, where the Board of Elections is listed as one of his creditors. Ric Thornton, the campaign finance director for the BOE, said the debt is “not dischargeable” in the bankruptcy case, so Aponte still owes the fines to the BOE.

His campaign account was also the subject of his criminal case, where he pleaded no contest in July to embezzling $14,000 from the account for personal expenses.

He was sentenced to 4.5 years probation and was ordered to file his outstanding campaign finance reports, which he has now done. He spent the remainder of his campaign money after his conviction, and reports the account is now empty.

Aponte resigned from the City Council in July.

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

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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