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Property raided in prostitution sting owned by RI DMV administrator

Target 12

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — R.I. Division of Motor Vehicles administrator Walter “Bud” Craddock, who formerly served 26 years as a Cranston police officer, owns one of six properties raided by police this week as part of a sweeping investigation into illegal prostitution operations.

Craddock through his real estate holdings company, LUC Realty Holdings LLC, owns 1732 Broad St. in Cranston, a mixed-use building located between Roger Williams Park and the Providence River.

Cranston police raided the building Thursday following a year-long investigation into at least six properties where investigators suspect illegal sex-for-money businesses have been operating, according to a police affidavit.

A spokesperson for the R.I. Department of Revenue, which oversees the DMV, referred all questions to Craddock directly. Craddock told Target 12 Friday he knew there was a business there, but didn’t know any illegal activities might be happening.

“I personally had never gotten any complaints, otherwise this would have been rectified a long time ago,” Craddock said. “If I was aware of the things that were alleged to be going on there, the lease would have been terminated.”

Cranston Police Chief Col. Michael Winquist told 12 News the Broad Street property has been the focus of a previous investigation for similar issues within the timeframe that Craddock has owned the property.

“We raided it in 2017 for the same activity, prostitution and massage without a license,” Winquist wrote in an email Friday.

The 3,200 square-foot property has been owned by LUC Realty since 2016, according to the local assessor’s office, which shows the company also owns four other Cranston properties.

Asked about the 2017 raid, Craddock said he was never notified that it had happened.

“I absolutely was not aware,” he said. “For some reason, it fell through the cracks and I was never notified. Had I been notified, there would have been some action taken.”

Winquist later told Target 12 it’s department policy to leave warrants at searched properties, but that officers don’t usually contact the property owners, as it’s “not required and we deal directly with the tenant [or] person in control of the property.” But he’s looking to change that moving forward.

“Going forward, for these types of operations, we will be contacting the property owner with the hopes they will evict tenants using their premises for criminal activity,” Winquist said.

The state database of business licenses shows LUC Realty is listed at a Cranston home owned by Craddock and his wife, Lynne Urbani-Craddock, who serves as policy director for the R.I. House of Representatives. Urbani-Craddock earns an annual salary of $152,000 in the House, according to the state’s payroll database.

House Speaker Joseph Shekarchi did not respond to questions about whether leadership was aware of the previous raid in 2017, and he insisted that Urbani-Craddock’s business as a landlord has nothing to do with her work for the state.

“This is a private matter and is unrelated to the excellent work that Lynne Urbani performs as a dedicated public servant on behalf of the people of the state,” Shekarchi said in a statement Monday.

Craddock, who also makes $152,000 per year with the state, was appointed to DMV administrator in 2015. Prior to joining the DMV, Craddock served as a member of the Cranston Police Department for 26 years before retiring as chief in 2002.

A police affidavit reviewed by Target 12 shows police were investigating the six illegal massage parlors and spas for roughly a year. Police said the parlors were staffed mostly by women of Asian descent and the only patrons to of the businesses were men.

In May, an undercover officer entered the Broad Street property and was offered sexual services for money by a woman working there, according to police.

The woman told the undercover office that she worked seven days a week and her boss paid her $5 per day, “but she was allowed to keep any tips that were earned,” according to the affidavit.

Craddock on Friday told Target 12 he has contacted his lawyer to discuss options to evict the tenants, who he said have been there since he purchased the property in 2016. But he underscored that they are only facing allegations at this time. He also said they had a business license when he bought the property, which has since lapsed — but he wasn’t aware that happened.

Asked how he didn’t recognize that something illicit might be going on at the property, especially with all of his years as a trained officer, Craddock reiterated that he wasn’t aware.

“When we bought the building, they had a business license at the time,” he said. “Any time I went there I never saw any inappropriate activity and nobody ever brought it to my attention. Again, I take this seriously. Had I been aware of this earlier, I would have been equipped to take proper action.”

On Monday, Craddock through a spokesperson shared an eviction letter sent to the tenant, Zhang Jing Hui. The letter directs the tenant to vacate the property on or before July 15.

“It has been brought to our attention by the Cranston Police Department that certain illegal activities are allegedly being conducted on the Leased Premise,” Craddock wrote in the letter, which is dated June 21. “It is also the understanding that the alleged activities have been going on for quite some time despite being brought to your attention by the Cranston Police as far back as 2017. As your landlord, we take these allegations VERY seriously and will not tolerate any unlawful or inappropriate activity on its Premises.”

Correction: An early version of this article misstated Craddock’s affiliation with the Broad Street operation.

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

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

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