CRANSTON, R.I. (WPRI) – Police seized thousands of dollars in cash, a cellphone and a business ledger last week when they raided an alleged sex-for-pay operation busted at a rental property owned by R.I. Division of Motor Vehicles administrator Walter “Bud” Craddock.
The seized items were detailed Friday in a returned search warrant from the Cranston Police Department, which raided six properties last Thursday as part of a sweeping investigation into illegal prostitution operations across the city.
Court records show police seized $3,840, along with a phone, paperwork and a ledger while on the premises of 1732 Broad St., which is owned by Craddock through his real estate holdings company LUC Realty Holdings LLC.
Craddock — who retired as Cranston’s police chief in 2002 after 26 years on the force there — has denied any knowledge of the alleged operation. Police say it was an illegal spa business where women of Asian descent offered male patrons sexual services in exchange for money.
“I personally had never gotten any complaints, otherwise this would have been rectified a long time ago,” Craddock told Target 12 last week, showing he took steps after the raid to evict the tenant by July 15.
“If I was aware of the things that were alleged to be going on there, the lease would have been terminated,” he added.
Cranston police say they are also examining whether the activities involved any human trafficking. Gov. Dan McKee has directed the R.I. State Police to investigate whether Craddock had any knowledge or involvement in the alleged operation.
“I have serious concerns about the allegations of human trafficking right here in the state of Rhode Island, in particular, in that facility in Cranston,” McKee said during a news conference this week. “It’s behavior you’re just not going to put up with and you’re going to put every effort into ensuring that anyone that was involved in that scenario and that activity is going to be held accountable.”
Despite his concerns, McKee has decided to keep Craddock on the job pending the outcome of the state police investigation. “You’re innocent until proven guilty,” the governor told reporters.
“At the moment, he will continue to work, and we will get the results as quickly as we can,” McKee added.
Craddock and his wife Lynne Urbani-Craddock — who also holds a high-level job in state government as policy director for the R.I. House of Representatives — have owned and rented the Broad Street property to the same tenant since 2016.
Cranston police previously raided the property for suspected prostitution in 2017. That same year, the spa’s owners appeared before a Cranston City Council committee seeking a new business license. The request was denied after then-City Councilor John Lanni Jr. raised concerns about online advertisements promoted on a website known for listing sex-for-money services.
“The ads state new girls with pictures of risqué dressed young women which would make him suspicious of illegal activity,” according to minutes from the Dec. 4, 2017, meeting.
Similarly, Cranston City Councilor Lammis Vargas told Target 12 she raised concerns about the Broad Street property in 2019 to the city’s administration and police.
“My main concern was a CCAP Head Start opening across the street and a possible illegal business operating here in our community,” Vargas wrote in an email, referring to the child-care program. She added that she didn’t know who owned the property until seeing news about the raids last week.
“I’m glad the Cranston Police Department conducted a thorough investigation and put a stop to illegal activity,” she added. “My constituents and everyone for this matter, deserve to live in a crime-free environment and if there were any signs of illegal human trafficking at these locations, I do hope the victims are provided with support services.”
Despite the 2017 raid and public discussion involving his property, Craddock maintains nobody ever raised the issue with him. And while police say the business was operating without a license, Craddock said the renters did have one when he took over the property in 2016, and he wasn’t aware it had since lapsed.
“Any time I went there I never saw any inappropriate activity and nobody ever brought it to my attention,” Craddock said last week. “Again, I take this seriously. Had I been aware of this earlier, I would have been equipped to take proper action.”
Court documents show Cranston police seized similar items from five other Cranston properties during the raid, listed as 761 Park Ave., 938 Park Ave., 1340 Plainfield St., 973 Reservoir Ave., and 96 Rolfe Square. The items include nearly $11,000 in cash at one property, several cell phones and tablets, documents and ledgers and marijuana edibles.