R.I. lawmaker’s husband charged with fraud

PROVIDENCE — The husband of a Rhode Island legislator was arraigned Friday on charges that he used a stolen credit card and said he was homeless to collect $58,000 in fraudulent Social Security benefits.

Henry Fellela pleaded not guilty in federal court in Providence and was ordered to remain at home until his trial, tentatively scheduled to begin in October.

Fellela, 55, faces charges of identity theft, credit card theft, and Social Security fraud. He was indicted Wednesday by a federal grand jury and was arrested on Friday.


Fellela’s wife is state Representative Deborah Fellela, a Johnston Democrat.

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Federal prosecutors said Fellela used a stolen credit card in 2010 to buy $3,077 worth of electronic goods and clothing. The credit card belonged to a Smithfield resident.

They also allege that Fellela said he was homeless to collect $58,207 in supplemental Social Security benefits between 2004 and 2012, even though he was living with his wife and children in their Johnston home.

‘‘He is in the business of committing fraud,’’ said Assistant US Attorney Richard W. Rose.

If convicted, Fellela faces potential prison time and fines.


Defense lawyer Michael Lombardi told US District Court Magistrate Judge Patricia A. Sullivan that Fellela has struggled with ‘‘psychological issues.’’

Sullivan ordered Fellela to remain in home confinement, with exceptions for medical and court appointments. Fellela also was ordered not to apply for credit or participate in any gambling.

Fellela was arrested twice earlier this year on separate allegations.

In March, he was arrested by Rhode Island State Police and charged with using a stolen credit card after someone reported that the card had been stolen from a mailbox.

In April he was charged with credit card fraud in Massachusetts.