PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Antonio Freitas, who wore a wire for the FBI to take down notorious former Providence Mayor Vincent “Buddy” Cianci, has died. He was 73.

Freitas, a Providence businessman, was recruited by the FBI in 1998 to go undercover in a tax bribery scheme at City Hall. The information Freitas gathered in the yearslong investigation was central to the racketeering conviction of Cianci in 2002.

Cianci was sentenced to more than five years in federal prison. He died in 2016.

Famously, Freitas used a briefcase equipped with an undercover camera when he offered an envelope stuffed with $1,000 in cash to Cianci’s top aide Frank Corrente in his City Hall office.

His death was confirmed by an obituary on the Rebello Funeral Home website.

“One of his greatest accomplishments was being a key witness and going undercover to assist the FBI in fighting corruption in Providence City Hall,” according to the obituary. “He was so proud of his ‘role’ as Mr. Freon, known for always wearing his ‘lucky underwear’ when he wore a wire for the FBI.”

Freitas was born in San Miguel, Azores and was a graduate of Central High School and the New England Institute of Technology. He started JKL Engineering, a successful HVAC business on Westminster Street in Providence.

Retired FBI Agent Dennis Aiken said Freitas “was the beginning of the end of the corrupt Cianci administration.”

“Tony, despite all the odds, was able to move forward with courage and determination to make sure that we were able to gather the facts that were hidden from the public for so many years,” Aiken said. “And without Tony’s willingness to go undercover, and pose as a corrupt businessman when he wasn’t, we would not have been able to accomplish what we did in the investigation.”

Former Rhode Island U.S. Attorney Meg Curran called Freitas “a tremendous help” in the case that brought down Cianci, dubbed Operation Plunder Dome.

“I don’t think that case would have been made without him. We owe him a lot,” Curran said. “He really stepped up where so many others really wouldn’t have and never did before.”

He was survived by his children and his longtime partner Beth Measley, according to the obituary.

Calling hours beginning at 4 p.m. on Dec. 26 at the funeral home. His funeral is scheduled for the following day.

Tim White (twhite@wpri.com) is the Target 12 managing editor and chief investigative reporter at 12 News, and the host of Newsmakers. Connect with him on Twitter and Facebook.

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