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Rhode Island crime news: March 2022

Providence Police investigate a shooting on Carolina Avenue, late Thursday, May 13, 2021, in Providence, R.I.Stew Milne/Associated Press

April 4, 2022

Cranston settles unlawful search-and-seizure lawsuit

A seven-year legal battle over privacy rights in the home that went all the way to the US Supreme Court ended Monday when a settlement was reached between Cranston resident Edward Caniglia and the city.

In the settlement, which was fought by the ACLU of Rhode Island, acknowledged that the police seized two lawfully owned firearms from his home without a warrant or Caniglia’s consent. The city will have to pay Caniglia and his attorneys almost $250,000 in damages and fees.

The roots of the case reach back to Aug. 20, 2015, when Caniglia and his wife, Kim Caniglia – began arguing over a coffee mug. The argument escalated, and Edward Caniglia grabbed an unloaded handgun and threw it on the kitchen table, telling his wife, “Why don’t you just shoot me and get me out of my misery?”

Caniglia went for a ride and his wife hid the gun under the mattress and box spring and left for a hotel for the night. She called local police the following day, who accompanies her back to the house, and an officer said her husband posed a danger to himself or others. Caniglia was taken to Kent Hospital for a psychiatric evaluation, and officers seized two of his handguns while he was gone. But he was not admitted to the hospital or charged with a crime. Though the police eventually returned the guns, Caniglia sued, claiming the police had violated his Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable searches and seizures.

“This was not a case about guns. This was a case going to the very core of the Fourth Amendment’s protection of privacy in the home from police intrusion,” said Steven Brown, ACLU of Rhode Island executive director on Monday. “The city’s position, if it prevailed, could have given police free rein to enter homes without probable cause or a warrant, whenever they deemed it ‘reasonable’ to do so.”

March 30, 2022

Rhode Island man convicted of gun charges gets 2-year term

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — A Rhode Island man convicted of illegally selling guns and lying on federal firearms purchase forms was sentenced Wednesday to two years in prison, federal prosecutors said.

Ademola Kayode, Jr., 30, of Warwick, purchased at least 16 firearms, in each case falsely stating on Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives forms that he was not a user of controlled substances when, in fact, he was, according to prosecutors.

He also acted as an unlicensed firearms dealer, selling guns to people legally prohibited from possessing them, and repeatedly lied to federal investigators when questioned about the whereabouts of the weapons, prosecutors said.

Kayode was spotted by ATF agents in June 2016 leaving a licensed Rhode Island gun dealer with four firearms, prosecutors said. He later told investigators that he had taken those weapons to Georgia.

Kayode sold at least five of the firearms that ended up in the hands of individuals who were legally prohibited from possessing them, authorities said. Three of the guns were recovered Providence.

He as convicted by a federal jury in October of several charges.

March 29, 2022

Judge dismisses $30m tribal lawsuit against highway agency

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — A judge has dismissed the Narragansett Tribe’s $30 million lawsuit against the Federal Highway Administration and the state of Rhode Island over a yearslong dispute, claiming that the agency damaged historic archeological sites during the construction of Route 95 in Providence.

The March 15 decision ruled that the tribe did not show enough evidence to prove that the federal agency’s actions violated the National Historic Preservation Act and resulted in the loss of tribal property, The Providence Journal reported Tuesday.

Judge Rudolph Contreras said the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia had no jurisdiction to hear its complaints against the Federal Highway Administration and the state.

But Contreras wrote that there is a possibility that the tribe could still have the standing to sue the Federal Highway Administration.

The tribe’s attorney, Liz Walker, said the tribe will file a new complaint with better arguments addressing the question of legal standing.

March 28, 2022

Man convicted of killing friend after a falling out

FALL RIVER, Mass. (AP) — A Rhode Island man convicted of killing his friend and setting fire to his home after they had a falling out was sentenced to prison for life on Monday.

Sayyid Coggins, 44, of Pawtucket, was found guilty by a jury last week of first-degree murder and arson in the April 2014 killing of Justin Downey in New Bedford, according to a statement from the office of Bristol District Attorney Thomas Quinn III.

It was Coggins’ second trial in the case. His first, in December 2016, ended in a mistrial.

Downey’s body was found buried in debris after a fire at his home. His ankles and wrists had been bound with duct tape, his skull had been fractured, and a piece of cloth had been placed in his mouth, contributing to his suffocation, prosecutors said.

According to prosecutors, Downey had inherited $100,000 from his grandparents and he and Coggins used some of the money to try and grow marijuana. But when the marijuana plants did not grow as expected, they came up with another plan. Downey gave Coggins $15,000 to purchase drugs that he planned to resell for a profit, prosecutors said.

Instead of using the money for drugs, Coggins spent much of it at a casino, causing a falling out when he refused to repay the victim, prosecutors said.

After killing Downey and setting his bedroom on fire, the defendant fled to Georgia where he was tracked down about a week later, prosecutors said.

March 25, 2022

Middle school custodian faces child porn charges

CRANSTON, R.I. (AP) — A custodian at a Rhode Island middle school is facing child pornography charges, state police said.

Michael Macari, 34, of Cranston, was arraigned Thursday on two charges.

He did not enter pleas and bail was set at $5,000, according to court records. He was also ordered to have no unsupervised contact with children. No defense attorney was listed in court records.

The state police Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force recently initiated an investigation into child pornography sharing over the internet, according to a statement from police. The trades were traced to an internet connection at Macari’s home, police said.

Investigators executed a court-authorized search warrant at the home and Macari was identified as the owner of digital media and social media accounts allegedly involved in the possession and transfer of child pornography, police said.

Macari has worked as a custodian for the Cranston public schools for five years, most recently at the Western Hills Middle School, but there is currently no evidence of any inappropriate involvement with students, state police said.

He’s due back in court on June 16. The school department has placed him on leave.

March 24, 2022

State finds that mistreatment led to 5-year-old’s death

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Maltreatment was a factor in the death last year of a 5-year-old child from West Warwick, R.I., child welfare authorities said Thursday.

The child died Sept. 18, according to a statement from Department of Children, Youth and Families spokesperson Kerri White.

The department initiated an investigation and “determined maltreatment contributed to this fatality,” the statement said.

In accordance with state law, the agency notified the Office of the Child Advocate of its findings.

The department said it had no previous involvement with the family.

No additional information was released because of confidentiality laws, the department said.

West Warwick police said they had no further information.

March 24, 2022

Feds: Fentanyl hidden in speaker delivered to woman’s home

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Authorities have arrested a Providence woman they say retrieved a package from her porch containing what she thought was more than 4.5 pounds of fentanyl hidden inside a speaker, federal prosecutors said Thursday.

Rosangeles Bueno, 40, faces several drug charges and is being held pending a hearing in U.S. District Court in Providence on Friday, according to the U.S. attorney’s office in Providence.

An email seeking comment was left with her attorney.

The package that originated in California was deemed to be suspicious, authorities said. It was opened and found to contain a brick-like object inside a speaker. A drug-sniffing dog alerted police to the presence of narcotics, which was determined to be fentanyl, authorities said.

The fentanyl was removed and replaced by another substance then delivered to Bueno’s home on Monday. She was spotted by surveillance exiting the residence, checking the surrounding area, and retrieving the package, authorities said.

Federal agents executed a search warrant and allegedly found not only the package, but another kilogram (2.2 pounds) of suspected fentanyl as well as other drugs, and items used in the preparation and distribution of drugs, prosecutors said. Three children were also in the home.

March 24, 2022

Providence police investigate gunshot fired in hospital room

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Police are investigating a gunshot that was fired through a window at a room at Rhode Island Hospital.

Nurses heard a noise from inside a room Wednesday morning and found a large gunshot in the window, according to the police report.

Cmdr. Thomas Verdi said the 68-year-old patient in the room was not injured by the gunshot and was immediately moved to another room. Police have not made any arrests yet, The Providence Journal reported.

After searching the area around the hospital, police said they weren’t able to locate where the gunshot was fired from. But detectives recovered two bullet fragments from inside the room and the hallway, according to the report.

A spokesperson for Rhode Island Hospital, Kelly Brennan, said in a statement that the hospital is offering support to staff and patients who need it.

“We believe at this time that this is a random incident and are working closely with the (police department) as the safety and protection of our staff, patients, visitors and community is a top priority,” Brennan said.

March 23, 2022

Providence teens arrested in ‘SplatRBall’ shooting of people in TikTok challenge

By Amanda Milkovits

PROVIDENCE, R.I. A 17-year-old boy and a man who turned 18 on Friday are accused of driving around the city with a “SplatRBall“ gun and shooting people in a TikTok challenge.

The teenagers shot two girls outside Central High School on Friday and two security officers at Providence Place mall on Saturday, said Detective Sgt. Michael Wheeler. They used a SplatRBall gun, which sounds like an actual firearm but uses water-bead gel balls as pellets, he said.

A principal at Central High School recognized the boys in their car outside the school at dismissal time on Monday and reached in to grab the gun from the driver, who pulled it back, Wheeler said. The principal held on and was dragged a little ways until he let go.

However, the police found the car outside 301 Cranston St. shortly afterward, with the 18-year-old passenger inside. The boy was arrested and police seized the weapon.

The boy is charged with four simple assaults and felony assault on the principal; his case is being handled in Family Court. The 18-year-old, who was not identified, is being charged with simple assault.

There have been other complaints of people shooting pedestrians outside Brown University, Rhode Island School of Design, and on Westminster Street, but those cases are not related, Wheeler said.

They all, however, appear to be part of the same TikTok challenge.

March 19, 2022

North Providence doctor faces more allegations from federal labor officials

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Federal labor officials are seeking a restraining order to bar a North Providence doctor from retaliating against a former employee who complained that a co-worker with COVID-19 put her at risk while she was pregnant.

Labor Secretary Marty Walsh is seeking the restraining order against Dr. Anthony Farina Jr. and his sister, Brenda DelSignore, who manages his practices, from retaliating against the employee who was fired in January.

The complaint filed in U.S. District Court states that the firing of a receptionist was “a textbook adverse action” in violation of federal OSHA laws, and accuses the defendants of refusing to provide a termination letter needed for public assistance and facilitating phone calls to harass her.

Farina’s lawyer, Michael Lepizzera, said his clients categorically deny the allegations and expect the complaint to be dismissed after the former employee is questioned in court, if the case gets that far.

March 19, 2022

Rhode Island House speaker thinks his office fire was arson

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Rhode Island’s House speaker thinks the fire that destroyed his law office last year was deliberately set.

Democratic House Speaker Joseph Shekarchi told The Providence Journal he believes the May 11 fire at his Warwick office was arson.

Shekarchi spoke about the fire this week, months after the incident, because he’s concerned about a car that caught fire near his car and burnt down to the bare metal at his condominium complex in Warwick in December, and a separate fire at the office of North Providence eviction lawyer Steve Conti in July.

Shekarchi said he has no evidence the car fire was connected to the fire at his office. But, the newspaper reports, an anonymous online post took credit for the fires at the two law offices.

Shekarchi said he believes there’s at least a connection between the law office fires based on emails he received and turned over to the police.

The owner of the car, and her husband, are on the board of the condominium complex. Warwick Police said there was no indication the fire was incendiary and attributed it to a mechanical failure.

March 14, 2022

Seekonk police officer injured while trying to stop fleeing suspect

A Seekonk police officer was injured while trying to stop a vehicle that ended up crashing and rolling over at the East Providence line, police said.

Seekonk Police Chief Dean Isabella said officers responded to a call of a reported shoplifting in progress at the Home Depot on Highland Avenue, and when they arrived at the scene they saw a person matching the description of the suspect attempting to leave. Read more.

March 10, 2022

Pawtucket man found guilty of multiple counts of child molestation

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – A Pawtucket man was found guilty in Providence County Superior Court of multiple counts of child molestation against a female victim under the age of 14, from 2012 to 2018, the state attorney general announced on Thursday.

The victim came forward in 2018, and investigators from the Pawtucket Police Department determined that the victim had been abused multiple times from the ages of 8 to 13.

On March 7 following the conclusion of a six-day trial before Superior Court Justice Daniel A. Procaccini, a jury found Milton Aponte, 43, guilty of one count of first-degree child molestation, three counts of second-degree child molestation, and one count of simple assault.

Aponte is being held without bail pending sentencing in this case, and for violating the terms of a previously imposed sentence for child molestation. He also is facing prosecution for failure to register as a sex offender, which is currently pending in Superior Court.

The defendant was previously convicted by a jury of first-degree child molestation in 1998. After his release from the Adult Correctional Institutions in 2012, the defendant was serving the remainder of a 40-year suspended sentence when he committed the new child molestation crimes.

March 10, 2022

Attorney General: Be vigilant against IRS scams during tax season

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Attorney General Peter F. Neronha is asking Rhode Islanders to remain vigilant against Internal Revenue Service (IRS) imposter scams as state and federal tax deadlines approach. The Office of the Attorney General has received multiple reports of phone and email IRS imposter scams that attempt to solicit personal and payment information from individuals.

The common elements of these imposter scams are: 1) a solicitation made to appear as if generated from a familiar government or business entity, like the IRS, and 2) a request for personal information or payment.

“Unfortunately, these types of imposter scams are all too prevalent. The best way Rhode Islanders can avoid falling victim to a scam is to stay educated about the methods and themes scammers employ,” said Neronha in a press release. “Each year during ‘tax season,’ we see an uptick in IRS imposter scams directed at earnest taxpayers who are simply trying to do the right thing.”

The IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers by email, text messages, or social media channels to request personal or financial information, the attorney general’s office explained. The IRS will also not call to demand immediate payment or threaten law enforcement action. Instead, consumers should not engage if contacted by a suspected scammer, not answer questions or click through web links, and should. Use official contact information provided on actual bills, statements, or official websites to contact the real entities, if needed.

To report the scam to the Attorney General’s consumer protection team, call 401-274-4400 or visit Consumers are also encouraged to consult for additional IRS imposter scam information.

March 9, 2022

Westerly man sentenced to life in prison for 2018 murder

A Westerly man was sentenced in Washington County Superior Court to life in prison after pleading to committing the 2018 murder of Jeremy Lehmann in Westerly, Attorney General Peter F. Neronha announced on Tuesday.

Nelson Dearce, 54, entered a plea of nolo contendere to second-degree murder and domestic assault with a dangerous weapon during a hearing on March 7 before Superior Court Justice Melanie Wilk Thunberg. The Court sentenced the defendant to life at the Adult Correctional Institutions.

The case against the defendant was initially tried in May 2021, ending in a mistrial after a jury was unable to reach a verdict in the case. Since then, Dearce was held at the Adult Correctional Institutions without bail.

Prior to the day of the murder, the defendant separated from his long-term partner, who is also the mother of their four young children. The two continued to live together, while separated, at the home on Bowling Lane in Westerly. During this time the defendant’s estranged partner began a romantic relationship with Lehmann.

On the day of the murder, the defendant returned early from work and discovered Lehmann in the home. He cornered Lehmann in a first-floor bathroom, then stabbed and slashed Lehmann 57 times with a knife.

The defendant exited the bathroom and confronted his estranged partner, telling her, “I killed him, I should have killed you,” the attorney general’s office said. The defendant then returned to the bathroom and stabbed Lehmann two additional times.

“In 2018, this defendant brutally took Mr. Lehman’s life in a senseless act of domestic rage and jealously. While nothing can bring Mr. Lehman back to his family, or ease his family’s sense of loss, it is my hope that this entirely appropriate sentence of life in prison will bring his family a measure of justice,” said Attorney General Neronha.

March 8, 2022

Nonprofit says bag of animal heads may be linked to sacrifice ritual

EAST GREENWICH, R.I. (AP) — Several animal heads found in a plastic bag in East Greenwich last month appear to be related to some sort of religious animal sacrifice ritual, the Rhode Island Society for the Prevention of Cruelty said Tuesday.

The bag, originally brought to the attention of police on Feb. 25 near a boat launch, contained a calf’s head, several rooster heads, a lamb head, and a kid goat head, the animal welfare group said in a statement.

“It is believed that animal remains that were found were from animals that were sacrificed as part of a religious ritual,” the nonprofit organization said.

The bag also contained grains and colored cloth material “associated with previous animal sacrifice investigations,” and two hand-drawn pictures, the organization said. One looked like a letter D with an arrow through it and one looked like a smiling theater mask.

The RISPCA asked anyone with information about the bag or the significance of the drawings to contact their investigators.

March 8, 2022

Rhode Island man gets life sentence in fatal stabbing

WESTERLY, R.I. (AP) — A Rhode Island man has been sentenced to life in prison in the stabbing death of his ex-girlfriend’s new romantic partner, prosecutors said Tuesday.

Nelson Dearce, 54, of Westerly, was sentenced Monday after pleading no contest to second-degree murder and domestic assault with a dangerous weapon in the January 2018 death of Jeremy Lehmann, according to a statement from the office of state Attorney General Peter Neronha.

Dearce had seperated from his longtime partner and the mother of his four children, but continued to live in the same home with her, prosecutors said.

While the two continued to live together, the woman began a romantic relationship with Lehmann, of East Lyme, Connecticut, authorities said.

On the day of the killing, Dearce returned home early from work, found Lehmann in the home, cornered him in a bathroom, and used a knife to stab and slash the victim 57 times, prosecutors said. The victim was taken to the hospital where he was pronounced dead.

Dearce’s trial in May 2021 ended in a mistrial when the jury was unable to reach a verdict. Prosecutors had intended to try the case again.

March 8, 2022

Attorney General files lawsuits against auto dealerships

Attorney General Peter F. Neronha on Tuesday announced that his ofice has filed lawsuits against auto dealerships Grieco Honda and Grieco Toyota for allegedly engaging in unfair consumer pricing practices in violation of Rhode Island’s Deceptive Trade Practices Act (DTPA).

In the lawsuits, filed this week in Providence County Superior Court, the Attorney General is seeking a court order to halt further conduct, obtain restitution for consumers where applicable, and impose monetary penalties for violating the DTPA, the state’s principal consumer protection law, the office announced in a press release. The two dealerships “have engaged in deceptive pricing practices directed at prospective car buyers in Rhode Island,” the attorney general’s office said.

“Grieco Honda is alleged to offer an advertised price for a vehicle, only to refuse to honor that price and instead charge a previously undisclosed ‘addendum fee’ as high as $5,000,” the press release read. “Grieco Toyota is alleged to deceptively advertise vehicles for sale at ‘wholesale prices’ and represent that buyers could ‘pay what we pay going to auction.’” -- Globe Staff

March 4, 2022

Rhode Island woman pleads guilty to fraud schemes

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — A Rhode Island woman accused of lying on her application for a federally backed mortgage loan and fraudulently applying for a COVID-19-related business loan and pandemic-related unemployment benefits has pleaded guilty, federal prosecutors said.

Juliana Martins, 53, of North Providence, pleaded guilty Thursday to making a false statement on a loan application and theft of government property, according to the U.S. attorney’s office in Rhode Island.

Martins was already on federal probation when she applied for a Federal Housing Administration guaranteed loan, prosecutors said. In part, she lied about gaps in employment while serving her federal sentence, claiming she was unemployed due to a “family emergency,” prosecutors said.

She also submitted a fraudulent application for a Small Business Administration low-interest COVID-19-related loan in July 2020 by falsely claiming she was an independent contractor in the health service business who had been affected by the pandemic, prosecutors said.

She also fraudulently applied for COVID-19-related unemployment benefits while she was working as office manager in April 2020, authorities said. Overall, she received more than $40,000 in pandemic relief benefits to which she was not entitled.

She is scheduled to be sentenced on Aug. 4.

March 3, 2022

RI education council not penalized for breaking meetings law

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Rhode Island education officials violated the open meetings law last year during a session for back-to-school planning where they voted to require mask mandates in schools, the state attorney general’s office said.

However, the attorney general’s office said it will not proceed with legal action against the Council on Elementary and Secondary Education because its decision to implement masks in schools was shortly overridden by a state mask mandate, TheProvidence Journal reported Wednesday.

The Open Meetings Act requires public government bodies to disclose all meetings and discussion topics at least two days before the meeting. The attorney general’s office said that the council failed to make note of the back-to-school agenda and mask mandate vote last August.

But the council said it implemented a school-wide mask mandate because it was “compelled to issue guidance to the school committees” before the start of the school year.

In the attorney general office’s review, it found that the council has no prior history of violating open meeting law and noted the council’s intention was to act “out of a good faith desire to promote public health and to provide time-sensitive guidance to school committees.”

March 1, 2022

Providence Police seek information about vandalism

Providence Police Detectives are seeking assistance from the public related to two incidents of vandalism that occurred at the Bank Newport City Center Providence Rink. The first incident took place on 7/15/21 at 1:06 a.m. and the second on 1/21/22 at 11:08 p.m. Both incidents took place in the area of the tunnel near the ice rink. The total damage of the graffiti amounted to approximately $7,000.00. Anyone with information related to either of these incidents or the individual involved is asked to please contact Detective Kevin Costa at (401) 243-6483.

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