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Rhode Island crime news: April 2022

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

April 28, 2022

Businessman spent pocketed employee withholding taxes on dating website, luxury home

A Rhode Island businessman was convicted of misusing more than a half-million dollars in employment taxes that he collected from his employees to finance his own personal expenditures.

Steven M. Allard, 60, of North Scituate, owner and operator of BR Steel Corporation in Burrillville and Greystone Iron Corporation in Smithfield, admitted to the court that from at least 2017 though 2018, he failed to turn over more than $570,000 in federal employment taxes and FICA payments withheld from his employees to the IRS.

Instead, Allard used the money to purchase of more than $216,000 in “credits” to online dating website, and approximately $93,000 in rent payments for a Scituate luxury home, according to US Attorney Zachary A. Cunha.

Allard pleaded guilty in September 2020, but was sentenced Thursday by U.S. District Court Chief Judge John J. McConnell to 33 months in federal prison followed by three years in federal, supervised release. The matter was investigated by the FBI, the U.S. Department of Labor Employee Benefits Security Administration, and the IRS’ Criminal Investigation.

He was also ordered to pay $625,186.29 in restitution to the IRS.

This was Allard’s third federal conviction and sentencing in US District Court in Rhode Island. In 2009, he pleaded guilty to tax evasion and bankruptcy fraud. He was sentenced to 30 months in prison. Prior to that, he was found guilty by a jury at trial of accepting kickbacks from public employees and was sentenced to 10 months in federal prison. — ALEXA GAGOSZ

April 15, 2022

Man pleads guilty in torching of Providence police cruiser

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — A Rhode Island man who according to authorities helped burn a Providence police cruiser during a night of vandalism in the summer of 2020 has pleaded guilty in federal court to conspiracy to commit arson.

In exchange for his guilty plea on Thursday, Nicholas Scaglione, 32, of Cranston, faces from 30 months to 46 months in prison at sentencing scheduled for July 14.

The cruiser was destroyed in the early morning hours of June 2, 2020 in what former Gov. Gina Raimondo called an “organized attack on the community” outside the Providence Place mall.

Authorities have said Scaglione was part of a “mob” bent on destruction that coincided with, but was separate from the nationwide protests over the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Scaglione sprayed a flammable liquid into the cruiser, causing a small fire to intensify just moments after he and others unsuccessfully tried to flip the vehicle onto its side, the U.S. attorney’s office in Providence has said.

He originally pleaded guilty in March 2021 to a charge of malicious attempt to damage or destroy a vehicle, but was recharged after a disagreement over his sentence.

A second man charged in the case been found incompetent.

April 11, 2022

4th person pleads guilty in counterfeit check scheme

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — A fourth person pleaded guilty Monday to his role in a scheme that recruited homeless people from Rhode Island to cash counterfeit busieness checks in several New England states in exchange for a small payment, federal prosecutors said.

Cortavious Benford, 28, of Atlanta, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bank fraud, according to the U.S. attorney’s office in Rhode Island.

Benford and his accomplices cheated banks in Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Maine out of almost $500,000, authorities said.

The men created counterfeit checks in the amount of about $2,000 made payable to a homeless or transient person they had recruited, then drove that person to a bank. In exchange, the recruited person was paid from $100 to $200, prosecutors said.

The scheme collapsed in February 2021 when a person recruited by Benford and an accomplice entered a Providence bank and pointed out their car to bank employees, who contacted police.

A search of a Providence home used by the suspects resulted in the seizure of a computer loaded with a program used to design and print checks, a printer, and blank check stock, prosecutors said.

April 8, 2022

Contractor pleads guilty to cheating the IRS of about $2.8 million

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — A Rhode Island drywall contractor has pleaded guilty to cheating the Internal Revenue Service out of more than $2.8 million by paying workers in cash and not withholding appropriate taxes, federal prosecutors said.

Jesus Jose Mendez, 44, of Woonsocket, co-owner J&J Drywall, Inc., as well as his business partner, used check-cashing businesses to cash more than 600 business receipt checks totaling more than $16 million dollars, prosecutors said in a statement.

They then traveled to construction sites carrying backpacks full of cash, which they left to be used to pay their employees, prosecutors allege.

In addition, the two failed to make required unemployment insurance contributions, authorities said.

With the exception of a small number of employees placed on an official payroll and paid by check, income and employment taxes were not withheld or paid to the IRS, and unemployment contributions were not made, prosecutors said.

Mendez, who pleaded guilty Thursday to wire fraud and conspiracy to defraud the United States, faces sentencing on July 14. His business partner remains a fugitive.

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.

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