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New developments in state rep’s civil lawsuit against convicted Councilman Aponte

Target 12

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The decision by soon to be former Providence City Councilman Luis Aponte to plead no contest to embezzlement and resign from the council seat he held for 20 years did not end his legal issues.

Only days before Aponte admitted stealing just under $14,000 from his campaign account, State Rep. Gregory Costantino filed new counts in his ongoing lawsuit against the longtime Ward 10 Democrat, who as a rookie councilman in 1999 was considered a rising political star.

The 2012 lawsuit focuses on a soured tax-sale, with Aponte admitting in a deposition he misspent $27,000 of Costantino’s $37,210 that was initially paid to the city tax collector with a check from Cost Realty to secure a multi-family home on Husted Court.

Costantino alleges when the 2005 deal went south, the city wrote the refund check to Aponte instead of his real estate business.

An amended complaint filed last Thursday added three new counts against the city: two for unjust enrichment, alleging the city “unjustly retained and refused to return” the money to Cost Realty.

The third count—money had and received—claims the city is required to pay the $37,000 back to Costantino’s company with interest.

Shortly after the lawsuit was filed, Judge Joseph Montalbano signed a final judgment against Aponte for just under $140,000 which included interest and penalties.

“To date,” the new filing states, “no portion of said judgment or statutory interest accrued since its entry has been paid by Aponte.”

Aponte, who has not responded to multiple requests for comment, has declared bankruptcy and listed Costantino as his biggest debtor.

When reached in January, Aponte said he was hopeful the lawsuit would be settled this year.

Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza’s Chief of Communications Emily Crowell told Target 12 earlier this year that Costantino’s attorneys had asked to depose five current or former city employees.

Crowell would not comment any further on the new developments, saying “the city does not comment on ongoing litigation.”

One day after Aponte pleaded to one count of felony embezzlement in a plea agreement that dropped three related counts, he submitted a short resignation letter to the city.

Aponte, who stepped down as council president after he was charged in 2017, agreed to resign from his seat as part of the deal and was handed a 4.5-year suspended sentence, without any prison time.

A council spokesperson said a special meeting will be held soon to formally accept Aponte’s resignation and vacate the Ward 10 seat he won for the first time when the late Buddy Cianci was mayor.

A special election must be scheduled within 90 days of the council accepting a member’s resignation, according to the city charter.

Send your story ideas to Target 12 Investigator Walt at wbuteau@wpri.com and follow him on Twitter @wbuteau.

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

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