Jan. 31, 2023
Providence police: Landlord was attempting to evict man when she was killed
PROVIDENCE — A woman was fatally shot Monday as she attempted to evict a man from an apartment house in Silver Lake.
Jennie Jensen was accompanied by her brother and another person when they first knocked and then kicked in the door of the third-floor apartment, said Providence Police Major David Lapatin. They were carrying firearms, Lapatin said, but so was the man who Jensen wanted to evict: Rufus Watson, 26.
Watson had been staying in the apartment, which was rented by his cousin, Lapatin said. The cousin was out, but Watson was in and had a “ghost gun” AR-15 with two large-capacity magazines, Lapatin said.
Watson fired a shot, killing Jensen, but he described the encounter as self-defense, Lapatin said.
Watson, who had a criminal record in South Carolina, was charged with carrying a gun without a license, possession of a firearm after being convicted of a crime of violence, two counts of having a large-capacity magazine, and having a ghost gun. He is being held at the Adult Correctional Institutions on $100,000 bail.
The homicide investigation will go before a grand jury, Lapatin said.
“We have to get to the absolute truth of what happened,” Lapatin said.
Jan. 31, 2023
North Providence detective and retired police lieutenant accused of embezzling from police union funds
PROVIDENCE — A North Providence detective and a former North Providence lieutenant were arraigned Tuesday on multiple felonies after an investigation into misappropriation of funds while they were on the executive board of the North Providence Fraternal Order of Police.
A statewide grand jury returned a secret indictment Monday charging former Lieutenant Dennis Stone with three counts of embezzlement over $100 and six counts of filing a false tax return. Detective Christopher Petteruti was charged with two counts of embezzlement over $100.
An investigation by the attorney general’s office, and the US Department of Labor, Office of the Inspector General and Office of Labor Management Standards charged them with using their access to union bank accounts to embezzle funds for personal expenses.
Stone is accused of embezzling funds for personal use, including dining out, online study materials for promotions, and various retail purchases. He is also accused of filing false tax returns for 2015 through 2020 tax years, by failing to disclose and pay taxes on income received as a part-time waiter at Twin Oaks restaurant in Cranston.
As treasurer, Petteruti is accused of embezzling union funds by withdrawing the money from ATMS and also spending the money to gamble at Foxwoods.
They were arraigned in Providence County Superior Court and are scheduled for a pretrial conference on April 12.
Jan. 24, 2023
Woonsocket man sentenced to life in prison in murder of city woman
A Woonsocket man was sentenced to life in prison Monday for striking and killing a woman with his car following an argument in August 2020, authorities said.
James Grilli, 39, was involved in an intermittent dating relationship with Erika Belcourt, 43. Attorney General Peter Neronha’s office said that during an argument on Aug. 22, 2020, at her apartment on Diamond Hill Road, Belcourt asked Grilli to leave and remove his belongings from the home. After the argument escalated, Grilli broke down the front door of the apartment, and Belcourt called city police. She was standing in front of his black Ford Escape on the phone with police when he revved his engine several times and accelerated toward her, running her over, Neronha’s office said. Grilli left the scene, according to prosecutors. Belcourt was transported to a hospital, where she was pronounced dead.
Grilli pleaded no contest on Monday before Superior Court Justice Richard Raspallo to one count of second-degree murder and one count of leaving the scene of an accident, death resulting, Neronha’s office said.
“This extraordinary act of domestic violence took the life of a mother of two, who had much to live for,” Neronha said in a news release. “The defendant’s outrageous conduct has now landed him precisely where he belongs: in state prison, for decades to come.”
Jan. 20, 2023
Exeter man indicted in killing of woman who lived with him
EXETER, R.I. — An Exeter man accused of killing a woman at their apartment last summer has been indicted by a statewide grand jury, the attorney general’s office announced on Friday.
Ramsundar Ramkalawan, 61, was indicted on Jan. 13 with one count of first-degree murder, in the death of 65-year-old Donna MacDonald in their residence on South County Trail last July.
MacDonald was a retired certified nursing assistant, with four children and four grandchildren, according to her obituary. The Rhode Island State Police investigated her death and charged Ramkalawan with her murder shortly afterward; he has remained held without bail at the Adult Correctional Institutions.
Ramkalawan is scheduled to be arraigned on Jan. 27 in Washington County Superior Court.
Jan. 19, 2023
Former bank employee admits role in $330K fraud conspiracy
PROVIDENCE — A former employee at Citizens Bank pleaded guilty Thursday to stealing the banking information of individuals, businesses, and a law firm, and giving it to the leader of a bank fraud conspiracy, who used the information to create fraudulent personal and business checks, US Attorney Zachary A. Cunha announced.
Savonnah Briggs, 28, of Providence, admitted to a federal judge that while she worked at the bank, she accessed customer information and check images, and gave the screenshots to Richard Kobi, 27, of Providence.
Kobi then used the stolen information to create fraudulent checks that he deposited into his own bank, or gave the information to other individuals who he paid to deposit the checks into bank accounts they controlled. After the checks were deposited, Kobi and others made, or attempted to make, rapid withdrawals of cash from ATMs or bank tellers.
According to information presented to the court, members of the conspiracy created and deposited approximately $330,000 worth of counterfeit checks.
Briggs pleaded guilty to a charge of conspiracy to commit bank fraud and is scheduled to be sentenced on April 25.
Kobi pleaded guilty last April to conspiracy to commit bank fraud, 10 counts of bank fraud, and being a felon in possession of a firearm. He was sentenced in December to three years in federal prison.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant US Attorney Ly T. Chin and was investigated by the US Postal Inspection Service, with the assistance of the FBI, US Secret Service, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, Rhode Island State Police, Providence Police Department, and Delaware State Police.
Jan. 3, 2023
Charges against man arrested during abortion rally dismissed
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Prosecutors have dismissed charges against a man arrested during an abortion protest in Rhode Island last summer, according to court records and the man’s lawyer.
Nicholas Morrell, 31, of Warwick, was arrested during a protest at the State House on June 25 held in response to the decision released the same day by the U.S. Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade, which had provided a constitutional right to abortion since 1973 .
Charges of disorderly conduct, resisting arrest and having a weapon other than a gun were dismissed by the prosection on Nov. 7, according to court records.
“The argument we made to the state is that a lot of this was recorded and his conduct was no different than anyone else there,” his attorney, Bryan Owens, said Tuesday. “I think he was unfairly charged.”
His client is neither abortion rights nor anti-abortion, Owens said.
An off-duty Providence police officer was charged with punching a political rival during the protest, but was acquitted of misdemeanor simple assault in November.
Dec. 16, 2022
Truck driver killed in crash that closed part of Route 95 for hours
PROVIDENCE — The driver of a tractor-trailer was killed early Friday after his vehicle crashed and rolled over on Route 95.
Adrian Morales, 45, of Yuma, Arizona, was driving a tractor-trailer on Route 95 northbound when he crashed into a disabled vehicle in the high-speed lane just before 1 a.m., according to Rhode Island State Police. Morales was thrown from the tractor-trailer, which rolled over across two lanes of the highway north of the Route 10 overpass.
Morales died from his injuries, and the driver of the other vehicle was taken to Rhode Island Hospital with serious but not life-threatening injuries.
Route 95 was shut down for several hours, and traffic was diverted onto Route 10 until the highway was cleared.
Dec. 16, 2022
Charges dropped against men in violent Newport arrests shown in viral cellphone videos
NEWPORT — Superior Court judges have dismissed misdemeanor charges against two local men who were arrested in a violent incident involving police that went viral last summer.
Newport officers were arresting Dennis S. Engelson, 22, who had allegedly thrown a bar mat and was acting belligerently when 22-year-old Christopher Adam walked by. Bystanders with cellphones recorded Adam stopping behind the officers as they were handcuffing Engelson.
Detective Patrick Walsh, who had shoved two other people who’d walked up behind the officers, turned and punched Adam in the face, knocking him to the ground; another video shared with the Globe showed Walsh punching Adam in the head again while he was lying motionless next to the curb. Walsh went out injured shortly afterward.
A statewide grand jury declined to indict Walsh in October.
On Dec. 7, Judge William Carnes Jr. dismissed charges of disorderly conduct, resisting arrest, and obstructing police against Engelson. On Tuesday, Judge Maureen B. Keough dismissed charges of obstructing police and resisting arrest against Adam.
Dec. 15, 2022
Pawtucket officer manager and her son charged in federal financial and health care fraud investigation
PROVIDENCE — The former office manager for a Pawtucket dermatologist’s office and her son are facing federal charges after a joint federal and state law enforcement investigation into embezzlement, fraud, and health care fraud, US Attorney Zachary A. Cunha said Thursday.
Tianna Keller, 66, of South Easton, Mass., is accused of using her position as office manager, her authority to sign office documents, and her position as benefits manager to orchestrate schemes to enrich herself, her son, and a friend, according to charging documents. Her LinkedIn profile listed her as a practice manager at School Street Dermatology.
Keller is accused of defrauding the practice of about $490,000, by giving herself pay increases of more than $185,000, adding relatives and a friend to the payroll and paying them a total of $46,703, and failing to deposit nearly $108,000 in patient cash payments, according to court documents. She is also accused of issuing dozens of checks payable to herself and others, signing the name of the medical practice’s owner without his permission, and using the company’s funds and credit cards to pay her rent, a daughter’s tuition, restaurant, grocery, retail, and other personal and travel expenses.
Keller is also accused of authorizing continued enrollment and payment for family medical insurance coverage for her 30-year-old son, Brandyn Coffman, of New Braunfels, Texas, and his family, even after he’d stopped working at the medical practice, authorizing payment of nearly $40,000 for this coverage. Blue Cross Blue Shield paid more than $14,000 in claims submitted by Coffman and his family. It is further alleged that Coffman made false statements to law enforcement, claiming he was unaware of the coverage and that he “didn’t even think to use the plan.”
Keller was receiving temporary disability insurance payments when she was terminated from the medical practice, but she allegedly continued to collect even after she began employment elsewhere; she is accused of fraudulently collecting $11,847.
Keller is charged with conspiracy to commit health care fraud, health care fraud, wire fraud, and aggravated identity theft. Brandyn Coffman is charged with conspiracy to commit health care fraud, health care fraud, and making materially false statements to agents.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Ronald R. Gendron.
The matter was investigated by the U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Inspector General, the U.S. Department of Labor, Employee Benefits Security Administration, and the Rhode Island State Police Financial Crimes Unit.
Dec. 15, 2022
Providence man sentenced in scheme to defraud Home Depot of $600K in tools and supplies
PROVIDENCE — A Providence man who admitted to participating in a conspiracy that defrauded Home Depot out of $600,000 in tools and building supplies was sentenced Thursday to one year and a day in federal prison, US Attorney Zachary A. Cunha announced.
According to charging documents, Luiyi Taveras-Garcia, 35, participated in a wide-ranging scheme that used stolen or fraudulently created business credit accounts to defraud Home Depot of building, roofing, electrical, plumbing and other contractor supplies at stores in Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire.
Taveras-Garcia pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud. He also admitted to a federal judge that he bought construction materials for his roofing business from another person who allegedly used stolen credit information to buy those materials from Home Depot.
U.S. District Court Judge Mary S. McElroy sentenced Tavares-Garcia to serve a year and a day in federal prison and three years of federal supervised release. He was also ordered to pay $46,749 restitution to Citibank, which had provided credit to Home Depot customers.
Abel Bier Romero, 29, of Cranston, who is also accused in this scheme, is awaiting trial on charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud, and aggravated identity theft.
The matter was investigated by the US Secret Service New England Cyber Fraud Task Force, with the assistance of the Smithfield Police Department, and prosecuted by Assistant US Attorney Paul F. Daly Jr.
Dec. 15, 2022
Providence man sentenced in Connecticut for stealing luxury car tires and rims for resale across the country
HARTFORD — Michael Farias, 57, of Providence, was sentenced Thursday by U.S. District Judge Michael P. Shea to two years in prison, followed by three years of supervised release, for stealing tires and rims from new vehicles at car dealerships in the northeast and selling the stolen items.
According to court documents and statements made in court, Farias and others stole thousands of dollars’ worth of tires and rims from numerous luxury vehicles at car dealerships in Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York and Maine between May 2015 and August 2018, and sold the stolen goods to others around the U.S.
Farias was arrested on Nov. 17, 2020, and pleaded guilty nearly a year later to one count of interstate transportation of stolen property.
Farias is out on a $100,000 bond and required to report to prison on April 14.
Dec. 12, 2022
Providence man found guilty in murder of 23-year-old man who had promoted nonviolence
PROVIDENCE — A city man was convicted Friday of assaulting his ex-girlfriend and murdering the 23-year-old man who had given her a ride home in August 2021.
A jury in Providence County Superior Court found Andrew Mangru, 23, guilty of second-degree murder, domestic assault, and other gun charges, after a seven-day trial.
Andrei Bonilla, 23, of Providence, had studied information technology at Year Up, worked full-time as a field service technician at the Providence office of IGT, and had started a clothing line, “Rise Above Hate,” to promote nonviolence.
Then, in the early hours of Aug. 28, 2021, Bonilla was dropping off a young woman at a house on Harwol Street when Mangru came across them. According to prosecutors and the Providence police, Mangru slapped the woman, who was his ex-girlfriend, and knocked her to the ground as she was getting out of the car. Then, Mangru went to the driver’s side and fired five times, hitting Bonilla three times. Mangru attacked the woman again, and fled.
Fatally wounded, Bonilla tried to drive away, but crashed on Branch Avenue. He died before rescue could arrive.
Police arrested Mangru two weeks later, but even as he was being held at the Adult Correctional Institutions before trial, he sent a letter to try to stop his ex from testifying against him at a bail hearing.
Mangru remains at the ACI pending his sentencing.
“This case is about senseless and indiscriminate gun violence. And this violence, which too often results in death, can be traced to one thing, the very thing that is at the heart of this case: illegal firearms wielded by criminals all too willing to use them at a moment’s notice to settle minor disputes and ridiculous scores,” Attorney General Peter F. Neronha said in a statement. “I am grateful that the day of consequence and justice has arrived for the defendant, who now faces deservedly long sentences in state prison for so blithely taking the life of another. The men and women of the Providence Police Department and Rhode Island State Police have my continued admiration and gratitude for their outstanding work investigating this case and ensuring its successful prosecution.”
The case was investigated by Providence detectives Jared Sherman and Theodore Michael, with assistance from the state police and ACI special investigations unit, and prosecuted by assistant attorney general Scott Erickson and special assistant attorneys general Jonathan Burke and Ariel Pittner.
Dec. 12, 2022
Man ordered to serve five years in federal prison for arson of Woonsocket mill building in 2019
PROVIDENCE — A 23-year-old man who broke into a Woonsocket mill-type building and set three fires in April 2019 was sentenced Monday to five years in federal prison, said US Attorney Zachary A. Cunha.
Jacob E. Lahousse, whose last known address was in Blackstone, Mass., had pleaded guilty on Sept. 12 to an arson charge.
In the case prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Dulce Donovan, Lahousse admitted that he climbed a ladder and got into the back of the building, then set fires to a computer and fabric in the basement and a love seat in the first-floor office at Sport Systems Custom Bag Corporation. He was also seen on surveillance cameras taking down an American flag from a wall inside, folding it in military fashion, and putting it into his backpack.
After Woonsocket firefighters extinguished the small fires, and investigators found evidence of forced entry, smashed computers, ransacked offices, and an attempted forced entry into a safe.
In the first-floor office where the loveseat was left burning, investigators found a handwritten note posted on the wall: “[i]n case you decided 2 call the feds I got pics of the fam.” A family photo was missing from the desk, according to the US Attorney’s Office.
Video surveillance shows Lahousse walking around the inside of building which, at the time, housed at least two business and collecting various items. Two hours after entering the building, Lahousse is seen on surveillance video destroying several video surveillance cameras.
U.S. District Court Chief Judge John J. McConnell Jr. sentenced Lahousse to five years in federal prison, followed by three years of federal supervised release. The judge also ordered Lahousse to pay $333,333 in restitution for damages.
Dec. 8, 2022
Providence police drop charge against man accused of stealing car with toddler inside, still seeking suspect
PROVIDENCE — The Providence police dropped their case against a 50-year-old city man who was accused of stealing a car that held a 3-year-old child on Nov. 29.
Major David Lapatin confirmed Thursday that investigators had determined that Osvaldo Vasquez was misidentified as the suspect who’d taken off with the vehicle. Vasquez was cleared of a charge of possession of a stolen vehicle.
The child’s mother had gone into a liquor store near the McDonald’s on 343 Broad St. when someone drove off with her car, and her child inside. The police were called and broadcast a description of the car, which officers quickly found parked outside the Omni Hotel in the city’s downtown.
The child was still inside the car and unhurt, according to police. Meanwhile, hotel security told police that the suspect ran away toward the skybridge.
The police sent out a photo from the security footage to all of the officers, and a sergeant happened to see a man who looked like the suspect getting on a RIPTA bus on Charles Street.
The police pulled the bus over, and arrested Vasquez; a witness who saw the driver of the stolen car also identified him.
The suspect and Vasquez looked similar and were wearing similar clothing, except for their sneakers, Lapatin said. However, the detectives received more surveillance video from Providence Place mall that showed Vasquez was inside when the car was stolen.
That and other information led the detectives to realize that Vasquez was not the man who stole the car, Lapatin said.
The police are still looking for the thief.
— Amanda Milkovits
Dec. 2, 2022
Newport man sentenced in manslaughter death of Providence man
PROVIDENCE — A Newport man who got into a fight that left a Providence man dying in a busy West End intersection in 2016 has been ordered to serve 22½ years at the Adult Correctional Institutions.
Jose Medina, 49, nicknamed “Spoon,” pleaded no contest on Nov. 25 to manslaughter in the death of 50-year-old Patrick Douglas, the attorney general’s office said on Friday.
Superior Court Justice Stephen P. Nugent sentenced Medina to 30 years, with 22½ to serve and the remainder suspended. After his release, Medina will be on 30 years of probation.
Both men had led lives of crime and drug addiction when they crossed paths on Elmwood Avenue on May 9, 2016. They got into an argument, which led to a fight, and Medina pulled out a small knife and stabbed Douglas in the chest, according to the investigation by Providence Detectives Michael Otrando and Casey Moffett. Medina fled as Douglas lay dying at Elmwood Avenue and Westfield Street.
The Providence detectives determined that Medina was the suspect, and Newport police arrested him a little over a week later. Medina had just been released from the ACI nine months earlier on other charges, according to court records.
Special Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Morin prosecuted the case.
“Far too often my office prosecutes cases involving senseless disputes settled with unnecessary acts of violence that bring tragic outcomes,” Attorney General Peter F. Neronha said in a prepared statement. “While nothing will bring back Mr. Douglas to his family and loved ones, it is my hope that the significant sentence imposed here by the court will bring them a measure of justice.”
Nov. 30, 2022
Providence man charged with stealing car with toddler inside
Update: On Dec. 8, 2022, Providence police have dropped their case against Osvaldo Vasquez
PROVIDENCE — A 50-year-old Providence man is accused of stealing a vehicle with a 3-year-old child inside on Tuesday evening. The child’s mother was at McDonald’s on 343 Broad St. around 9:30 p.m. when the man drove off with her car. The police were called and broadcast a description of the car, which officers quickly found parked outside the Omni Hotel in the city’s downtown.
The child was still inside the car and unhurt, according to police. Meanwhile, hotel security told police that the suspect ran away toward the skybridge.
After viewing the security footage, Officer John Najarian got a picture of the suspect, which was sent out to all officers. Within minutes, Sergeant Michael Clary saw a man who looked like the suspect getting on RIPTA bus on Charles Street.
The police pulled the bus over, and the man jumped out and ran. The police said they caught him soon afterwards on Charles Street; a witness who saw the driver of the stolen car also identified him.
The man was identified as Osvaldo Vasquez, 50, and was charged with possession of a stolen vehicle, according to court records. He was arraigned at 6th District Court on Wednesday morning, where he was presented as a violator of his bail in a 2019 larceny case and as a violator of probation in a first-degree robbery case from 2008.
— Amanda Milkovits
Nov. 23, 2022
City allows Cadillac Lounge to reopen after fatal stabbing in parking lot
PROVIDENCE — The city Board of Licenses voted on Wednesday to allow the Cadillac Lounge strip club on Charles Street to reopen days after a man was fatally stabbed after leaving.
Stephon Calice, 26, of Fall River, was fatally stabbed after leaving the club early Saturday. Police have not announced any arrests.
The reopening of the club comes with conditions related to security, including getting a police detail for Wednesday night and other busy nights. The five-member board, which controls business licenses for restaurant and liquor licenses, met Wednesday afternoon at City Hall to vote on reopening the club.
The Cadillac Lounge’s lawyer, Nicholas Hemond, said the Cadillac Lounge has extensively cooperated with authorities.
The club had been shuttered in the wake of the homicide. Owner Dick Shappy previously said the stabbing occurred in part of the parking lot that the club shares with a vintage car business that he also owns; it was technically on the vintage car business’ property, he said. Police previously said everyone involved in the altercation leading up to the stabbing had been patrons at the club.
Nov. 22, 2022
Pawtucket man sentenced to 15 years in home invasion that injured resident
PROVIDENCE — A man who was involved in a home invasion in Johnston in 2021 where a 30-year-old resident was shot and stabbed was ordered Tuesday to serve 15 years at the Adult Correctional Institutions.
Deven Guernon, 25, of Pawtucket, pleaded no contest to assault with a dangerous weapon with intent to rob, first-degree robbery, and two counts of conspiracy, the attorney general’s office said. Providence County Superior Court Judge Robert D. Krause sentenced Guernon to 30 years, including 15 years to serve at the ACI and 15 years suspended with probation.
Attorney General Peter F. Neronha thanked the Johnston police, including detectives Anthony Sasso, John Deangelis, and Mark Bairos, for their investigation.
“When every Rhode Islander comes home and shuts the door behind them, their entirely reasonable expectation is that they are safe, and that any visitors, even the unexpected, will arrive with only good intentions,” Neronha said in a statement. “The defendant here flouted that principle, and to the extreme. To invade another’s home, armed with gun and knife, with the intent to steal the property of the homeowner, is simply outrageous.”
Guernon and an unidentified person broke into a residence on Atwood Avenue in the early hours of Jan. 10, 2021, and attempted to steal marijuana and cash, according to the case prosecuted by Assistant Attorney General John Perrotta. They got into a fight with the resident and slashed him with a knife, and then, the other unidentified suspect shot the resident in the thigh with a .40 caliber handgun.
Guernon and the other suspect got away with $1,000 and a cell phone, but the Johnston police identified Guernon as a suspect, according to the attorney general’s office. Guernon was arrested in Denver, Colorado, in January 2021 and brought back to Rhode Island to face the charges.
The gun has not been recovered.
Nov. 21, 2022
New York City man sentenced to federal prison for defrauding R.I. seniors in ‘grandparent scam’
PROVIDENCE — A New Yorker was sentenced to nearly three years in federal prison Monday and ordered to pay nearly $400,00 restitution for being involved in a conspiracy that defrauded more than a dozen Rhode Island seniors who fell for a so-called “grandparent scam.”
The scam that sent 40-year-old Jason Hatcher to prison involved at least 14 victims who were between 79 and 94 years old, US Attorney Zachary A. Cunha said in a statement. Each victim received calls from people who impersonated relatives or lawyers, who said that a loved one, often a grandchild, had been arrested after being involved in a motor vehicle accident and needed cash bail, according to the US Attorney’s Office.
The callers told the victims to give cash to a courier who would be sent to their homes. Hatcher travelled around Rhode Island and collected the money from people, according to the investigation.
Rhode Island victims were scammed out of approximately $394,033.
Hatcher pleaded guilty on July 5, 2020, to conspiracy to commit wire fraud and aggravated identity theft. US District Court Judge William E. Smith sentenced him to 33 months in federal prison, followed by three years of federal supervised release. Smith also ordered Hatcher to pay $394,033 in restitution.
Two co-defendants, Bryan Valdez-Espinosa, 22, and Diego A. Alarcon, 22, of Union City, N.J.. pleaded guilty in July to conspiracy to commit wire fraud and are awaiting sentencing in US District Court in Providence. Homeland Security Investigations had investigated the case, and Assistant US Attorneys G. Michael Seaman, Christine D. Lowell, and Lee H. Vilker prosecuted the case.
Nov. 21, 2022
Coventry woman admits fraudulently applying for, getting $17k in COVID funds
PROVIDENCE — A Coventry woman admitted to a federal judge that she fraudulently applied for and received more than $17,000 in unemployment benefits under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act and the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program.
Deanna Alston, 34, said in court Monday that while collecting pandemic related unemployment benefits from the Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training, she also filed fraudulent applications with California and Pennsylvania. During a few months in 2020, Alston collected approximately $17,075 in unemployment benefits that she wasn’t entitled to, according to the US Attorney’s Office.
Alston pleaded guilty to wire fraud and is scheduled to be sentenced Feb. 27, 2023.
Criminal cases related to fraudulent applications for pandemic-related unemployment insurance benefits are investigated jointly by the FBI, State Police, and the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Inspector General. The team of prosecutors includes assistant U.S. attorneys Stacey P. Veroni, Denise M. Barton, and G. Michael Seaman, and Rhode Island Assistant Attorney General John M. Moreira, chief of the Rhode Island Attorney General’s Public Integrity Unit.
Rhode Islanders who believe their personal identification has been stolen and used to fraudulently obtain unemployment benefits are urged to contact the Rhode Island State Police at email@example.com or the FBI Providence office at (401) 272-8310.
Nov. 17, 2022
Pawtucket woman who molested toddler is sentenced to federal prison
PROVIDENCE — A Pawtucket woman who recorded herself molesting a toddler and sent the video to her then boyfriend was sentenced Thursday to 15 years in federal prison, announced US Attorney Zachary A. Cunha.
Samantha York, 34, pleaded guilty on June 8 to sexual exploitation of a minor and distribution of child pornography.
The case stems back to 2016, when law enforcement arrested York’s boyfriend at the time, John Q. Adams, 33, of Foster, in an unrelated case. The authorities discovered that Adams had a video on his cell phone of an adult molesting a toddler, according to court documents. Adams allegedly told investigators that York provided him with the video to satisfy his sexual desire for young girls.
The child’s face was clearly visible in the video. Law enforcement identified the girl and determined that York, who was a caregiver for the child, was the person shown in the video molesting the child, and that she recorded her actions, and sent the video to Adams. Adams later sent the video to another individual, according to court records.
U.S. District Court Chief Judge John J. McConnell Jr. sentenced York to 15 years in federal prison, followed by 10 years of federal supervised release.
Adams is awaiting trial on unrelated charges of receipt of child pornography and possession of child pornography.
Assistant US Attorney Denise M. Barton is prosecuting both cases. The Rhode Island State Police Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, Woonsocket Police, and Homeland Security Investigations jointly investigated the case.
Nov. 17, 2022
Sex offender convicted three times of child porn is sentenced to federal prison
PROVIDENCE — A Providence man who has been convicted of child pornography in separate cases brought by the US Air Force, Rhode Island state court, and US District Court in Providence this year was sentenced Thursday to federal prison.
Christopher J. Skinner, 33, of Providence, was ordered to serve 10 years for possession of child pornography, announced United States Attorney Zachary A. Cunha.
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children notified the State Police Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force in January that files containing child sexual abuse had been uploaded by someone in Rhode Island.
A Homeland Security Investigations agent and a state police detective determined that the files had been uploaded from an IP address assigned to Skinner’s residence. Law enforcement searched Skinner’s home and cell phone in February and found images containing child sexual abuse.
Skinner pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in June to possession of child pornography. U.S. District Court Judge Mary S. McElroy sentenced him to 10 years, followed by 10 years of federal supervised release.
Skinner was convicted in 2010 of possession of child pornography by the US Air Force and sentenced to two years and dishonorable discharge. Then in 2014, Skinner was convicted in Rhode Island state court of possession of child pornography and sentenced to 10 years of incarceration, with three years to serve.
Skinner has also been convicted of failure to register as a sex offender.
Nov. 16, 2022
Jury convicts N.Y. man of murdering the mother of his new fiancee’s ex-boyfriend on New Year’s Day 2020
PROVIDENCE — A jury convicted a man who traveled from New York to Pawtucket and killed the mother of his new girlfriend’s ex-boyfriend in 2020.
After an eight-day trial, Jack Doherty, 26, was found guilty Tuesday of murder, discharge of a firearm when committing a violent crime, conspiracy, and carrying a pistol without a license. Doherty had used a ghost gun to kill 54-year-old Cheryl Smith of Pawtucket.
Doherty is being held without bail at the Adult Correctional Institutions pending a sentencing hearing at Providence County Superior Court.
Doherty’s fiancee, Shaylyn Moran, 21, was convicted in August 2021 of murder and sentenced to serve life in prison, plus 20 years, for her role in Smith’s death.
Doherty had proposed to Moran just before going to Smith’s house to kill whoever opened the door. The engagement lasted a few hours, until the Pawtucket police arrested them after the couple posted selfies on Facebook of them in bed at a hotel room.
Moran had met her new boyfriend online, and over months, talked to him about wanting to kill her ex-boyfriend, according to police and prosecutors.
So, when Doherty left his home in New York to come meet Moran for the first time on New Year’s Eve 2019, he brought a 9mm ghost gun pistol.
They got engaged that night at a New Year’s Eve party, stayed at the Hampton Inn just off Route 95, and the next day, Doherty went to the ex-boyfriend’s house on Baxter Street in Pawtucket to shoot whoever opened the door.
He opened fire on Smith, a teacher’s assistant at the local YMCA and a real estate agent. Doherty ran away; firefighters rushed Smith to the hospital, where she was pronounced dead.
During the trial before Judge Kristin E. Rodgers, Doherty tried a defense of not guilty by reason of insanity. The jury found otherwise.
Special Assistant Attorney General Stephen Dambruch, Assistant Attorney General Joseph McBurney, and Pawtucket police Sergeant Michael Cioe and Sergeant Justin Gould led the investigation and prosecution.
Nov. 9, 2022
Providence man sentenced for trafficking fentanyl and possessing ghost gun
PROVIDENCE — A Providence man was sentenced last month to serve eight years at the Adult Correctional Institutions Wednesday after pleading no contest to trafficking fentanyl and possessing a ghost gun.
Tyrece McCants, 31, was arrested in March by the state police High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Task Force, which had been investigating suspected fentanyl distribution from his home on Newark Street in Providence.
When task force members arrived on March 29 to search his home, McCants fled, tossing a ghost-gun pistol from his waistband, according to the attorney general’s office. The investigators caught McCants, found the pistol, and seized from his house about 37 grams of fentanyl, 21 grams of cocaine, some marijuana, $2,199 in cash, and other drug paraphernalia.
During a hearing at Providence County Superior Court on Oct. 27, McCants pleaded no contest to possession with intent to sell one ounce to one kilo of fentanyl, possession of a ghost gun, possession of a firearm while possessing with intent to deliver fentanyl, and possession of a firearm by a prohibited person.
Magistrate John F. McBurney III sentenced McCants to 15 years, with eight years to serve, and a seven-year suspended sentence with 15 years of probation.
“Here again we have the all too familiar scenario of a dangerous drug dealer armed with a Polymer80 ghost gun sourced from an out-of-state online ghost gun kit company,” Attorney General Peter F. Neronha said in a statement Wednesday. “We have charged approximately 50 cases involving such guns over the past two years, and it should come as no surprise that that these ghost gun kits, obtained without the necessity of a background check, are sought by those seeking to make money by providing arms to criminals or criminals seeking to arm themselves.”
Special Assistant Attorney General Daniel Hopkins and Officer Manuel Sifontes of the RISP HIDTA Task Force led the investigation and prosecution.
Nov. 8, 2022
Rhode Island State Police arrest 2 men, seize three handguns in traffic stop.
LINCOLN, R.I. -- Two Connecticut men were arrested Tuesday night after troopers stopped their speeding vehicle on Route 146 and discovered loaded guns, a hatchet and a stun gun, according to the state police.
During a search of the vehicle, the troopers found a loaded .45 pistol, a hatchet, and a stun gun in a backpack next to the front-seat passenger, Jacob Robert, 21, of Woodstock. They also found a .38 caliber revolver and a 9 millimeter ghost gun, both loaded, in a backpack next to the backseat passenger, Kaleb O’Connell, 22, of Dayville.
Both Robert and O’Connell were arrested and scheduled for arraignment at Third District Court Wednesday. Robert is charged with carrying a pistol without a license, two counts of having weapons other than firearms, and a warrant from Scituate police on an eluding charge.
O’Connell is charged with possession of a ghost gun and two counts of carrying a pistol without a license.
Nov. 8, 2022
Providence man sentenced to federal prison for fraudulently applying for COVID unemployment benefits
PROVIDENCE — A Providence man who filed a fraudulent application for unemployment benefits under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act and the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program was sentenced on Tuesday to 30 days in federal prison and three months home confinement.
Deeshawn Gadson, 32, had pleaded guilty in January to a charge of wire fraud, the US Attorney’s office said Wednesday.
In April 2020, Gadson, who lived and worked in Rhode Island, submitted online applications to the Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training for benefits in the CARES Act. Gadson began receiving benefits the next month, eventually reaching approximately $20,302 in unemployment benefits.
Shortly after he began receiving these benefit payments from the RIDLT, Gadson submitted a fraudulent online application to the Arizona State Department of Economic Security, falsely stating that he lived and worked in Arizona. As a result, Gadson was paid $7,170 in PAU program benefits, according to the US Attorney’s Office.
U.S. District Court Judge William E. Smith sentenced Gadson to 30 days of incarceration, followed by three years of federal supervised release, with the first three months in home confinement with electronic monitoring. Gadson was also ordered to pay $7,170 in restitution to the Arizona State Department of Economic Safety.
Nov. 8, 2022
West Warwick man accused of domestic violence is arraigned on federal firearm and drug charges
PROVIDENCE — A West Warwick man accused of holding a woman against her will and threatening to shoot her is now facing federal firearms and drug charges.
Geovhan Rashaine Thomas, 35, was arrested last week, after officers in the West Warwick/Coventry Police Departments Regional SWAT team searched his residence and seized seven firearms, nearly a kilo of cocaine, and about $575,000 in cash, according to the US Attorney’s office.
The investigation began last week, after a woman told police that Thomas had assaulted and threatened her, and got a gun from his bedroom at his residence early on Oct. 31. Thomas eventually allowed the woman and her two children to leave, then the West Warwick police drew an arrest warrant and assembled the SWAT team.
Thomas, who was previously convicted on drug charges, was charged by West Warwick police with felony domestic kidnapping and several misdemeanor domestic violence charges. He was ordered held without bail as a violator.
Thomas was arraigned in US District Court on Tuesday on charges from federal authorities with possession with intent to distribute 500 grams or more of cocaine and being a felon in possession of firearms.
Oct. 13, 2022
Jury convicts two men in 2018 drive-by gang-related murder in Providence
PROVIDENCE — Two men affiliated with street gangs were convicted Oct. 6 of killing a 57-year-old man who had stopped to pick up two people the men were aiming for.
David Page wasn’t the intended target when Chandanoeuth Hay, 32, and Jaythan Hang, 23, fired into his car on June 26, 2018, in the city’s Silver Lake neighborhood. Page, who’d survived another shooting, was killed instantly in the drive-by, while his passengers escaped.
After an investigation by Providence detectives Michael Otrando, Stephen Sullivan, and Theodore Michael, prosecutors John Moreira and Jeffrey Morin convinced the jury that Page’s murder stemmed from an ongoing gang feud.
That night, Page had driven to a home on Lowell Avenue pick up two passengers. Hay and Hang pulled up in a stolen Audi and fired at the residence and the people in the Page’s car.
Investigators later found the Smith & Wesson .22 caliber long rifle pistol, which the Rhode Island State Crime lab confirmed had been used to kill Page.
After a 17-day jury trial before Superior Court Justice Kristen E. Rodgers, the jury found Hay and Hang guilty of murder, conspiracy, two counts of assault with a dangerous weapon, three counts of discharging a firearm while committing a crime of violence, discharging a firearm from a motor vehicle, and carrying a pistol without a license.
Hay was also found guilty of possession of a firearm after being convicted of a crime of violence. Prosecutors are asking the court to determine that Hay is a habitual criminal, which carries a maximum 25-year sentence consecutive to any other sentence imposed.
Hay and Hang are being held without bail at the Adult Correctional Institutions pending a hearing on their motion for a new trial on Nov. 1 in Providence County Superior Court.
“This case is about senseless and indiscriminate gun violence. And this violence, which too often results in death, can be traced to one thing, the very thing that is at the heart of this case: illegal firearms wielded by criminals all too willing to use them at a moment’s notice to settle minor disputes and ridiculous scores,” Attorney General Peter F. Neronha said in a statement. “I am grateful that the day of consequence and justice has arrived for these defendants, who now face entirely deserved long sentences in state prison for so blithely taking the life of another. I am grateful to Mr. Page’s family for their patience as we have travelled this road together. And the men and women of the Providence Police Department have my continued admiration and gratitude for their outstanding work investigating this case and ensuring its successful prosecution.”
Sept. 30, 2022
Jury finds Providence man guilty of multiple counts of child molestation
PROVIDENCE — A Providence man was found guilty Wednesday of multiple counts of child molestation against a girl under 14.
After a seven-day trial before Superior Court Justice Stephen P. Nugent, it took a jury just three and a half hours to find 61-year-old Jose Lantigua guilty of first-degree child molestation and second-degree child molestation.
Attorney General Peter F. Neronha said he was grateful to the girl and her family, and Providence Detective Koren Garcia, for bringing Lantigua to justice.
“It is impossible to capture in words the degree of harm the defendant caused the little girl he sexually assaulted here. His criminal conduct would have caused devastating harm to her had it happened once. Here it happened on multiple occasions, over a series of many years,” Neronha said in a statement Friday. “Yet this little girl stood up, came forward, and ultimately did an extraordinarily brave thing: she confronted her accuser and brought him to justice.”
Assistant Attorney General Shannon Signore and Special Assistant Attorney General Ariel Pittner presented a case that proved to the jury that Lantigua had sexually assaulted the girl, who he knew, multiple times between 2013 and 2019 at a home in Providence.
“I commend the young victim in this case for coming forward and exhibiting great courage throughout the investigation and prosecution of this case,” Providence Public Safety Commissioner Steven M. Paré said in a statement.
“Cases involving the sexual exploitation of children are some of the most heartbreaking that are investigated by the men and women of the Providence Police Department,” Providence Police Chief Colonel Hugh T. Clements Jr. said in a statement. “Our thoughts are with the victim and her loved ones at this time, and hope that this verdict can bring a sense of justice to them, following their traumatic experience.”
Lantigua is held without bail at the Adult Correctional Institutions pending a sentencing hearing on Dec. 13 in Providence County Superior Court.
Sept. 1, 2022
Texas woman admits in US District Court Rhode Island that she collected $1.26 million in multi-state ‘romance scam’
PROVIDENCE — A woman from Houston, Texas, admitted to a federal judge on Thursday that she participated in a conspiracy that scammed unsuspecting and trusting victims of more than $2.6 million dollars through internet-based “romance scams.”
Dominique Golden, 31, also admitted in US District Court that she personally collected $1.26 million in cash, checks, money orders, and wire transfers from people across the country, including Rhode Island, US Attorney Zachary A. Cunha announced.
Golden, who had four other aliases, admitted that she opened mailboxes and bank accounts with the names of fake people and businesses in order to obtain and deposit funds from the “romance scam” victims.
An investigation by the US Postal Inspection Service determined that the members of the conspiracy collected a total of $2.6 million. Golden collected more than $1.26 million in just 10 months, from Feb. 4 to Dec. 12, 2018, according to federal prosecutors.
The group worked by contacting victims through the internet and over apps, such as Words With Friends, Facebook, Match.com, and Christian Mingle, posing as romantic interests or distant relatives in need of help, and directed victims to send money.
One contacted a South Kingstown resident in their 70s over Words With Friends, posing as “General Matthew Weyer,” stationed with the US Army in Afghanistan. “Weyer” said he needed money to ship a box to the United States, according to court records. The South Kingstown resident eventually ended up sending $585,346 to Golden and others in the conspiracy, according to court records.
Other victims were from New York, Arkansas, Colorado, North Carolina, Missouri, and Florida.
Golden pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud and will be sentenced on Dec. 6. According to a plea agreement, she will forfeit all interest in any fraud-related assets traceable or derived from her criminal conduct; this includes a 2018 Bentley Bentayga; a 2017 Mercedes E-Class; a gold oyster perpetual women’s Rolex watch; a gold oyster perpetual men’s Rolex watch; a gold and diamond Rolex bezel; a 16-inch gold rope chain with a diamond coin pendant; a 24-inch gold rope chain; three firearms; and $11,731 seized from her home and from the Bentley.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Denise M. Barton, with the assistance of Assistant United States Attorney Dulce Donovan.
Aug. 31, 2022
Johnston man sentenced to federal prison for possession of child pornography
PROVIDENCE, R.I. – A Johnston man who admitted to possessing more than 2,000 videos and images of child pornography has been sentenced to three years in federal prison, US Attorney Zachary A. Cunha said Wednesday.
Jon Knowles, 49, admitted to a federal judge in May that he employed a computer software program to download encrypted “pieces” of files used to assemble digital files. In June and August of 2021, Knowles used the software program to download and assemble at least three sexually explicit video files depicting prepubescent females.
On Nov. 17, FBI agents conducted a court-authorized search of Knowles’ residence and seized several electronic devices. A forensic audit of the devices resulted in the discovery of 2,075 videos and 342 images of child pornography, according to the US attorney’s office.
Knowles pleaded guilty on May 9 to a charge of possession of child pornography. U.S. District Court Judge Mary S. McElroy sentenced Knowles on Wednesday to three years in federal prison, followed by 10 years of federal supervised release. Knowles was also ordered to pay $5,000 special assessment, as required by the Justice for Victims Trafficking Act in child sexual exploitation cases where the court makes a finding that the defendant is not indigent.
Aug. 31, 2022
Providence men sentenced on ghost gun and fentanyl trafficking charges
PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Two Providence men arrested in a drug-trafficking investigation last fall have been sentenced to prison.
While investigating a drug-trafficking operation, the state police high-intensity drug trafficking area task force had seized fentanyl, cocaine, a ghost gun, a 31-round gun magazine, ammunition, and drug paraphernalia from an apartment on Plainfield Street and a storage unit in Cranston, according to the attorney general’s office.
Lazaro Martinez, 37, and Damian DeAngelis, 39, had pleaded guilty to possession of more than a kilogram of fentanyl, possession of one ounce to one kilogram of cocaine, conspiracy. Martinez also pleaded guilty to possession of a ghost gun and possession of a firearm by a prohibited person.
On Thursday, Superior Court Judge Robert D. Krause sentenced Martinez to 20 years, with 12 years to serve at the Adult Correctional Institutions. Krause sentenced DeAngelis to 15 years, with seven years to serve.
This was one of 50 “ghost-gun” cases that the attorney general’s office has prosecuted since the firearms were outlawed two years ago. Attorney General Peter F. Neronha said in a statement Wednesday that his office sought to pass that law “because we knew that they are the gun of choice for those with long criminal records and who continue to engage in serious, often life-threatening criminal activity.”
Aug. 25, 2022
RI State Police: Massachusetts speeder had “ghost gun” and drugs
CUMBERLAND, R.I. – A Massachusetts man stopped for speeding on Route 295 in Cumberland early Thursday had a loaded “ghost gun” and narcotics in his vehicle, according to the Rhode Island State Police.
Gentrit Millanaj, 20, of Medford, was charged with possession of a ghost gun, possession with intent to deliver marijuana and crack cocaine, possession of a firearm while committing a crime of violence, and possession of more than an ounce of marijuana. The state police said that troopers seized a loaded “Patmos” 9mm pistol with no serial number, 19.6 ounces of marijuana, 2.6 grams of crack cocaine, and drug packaging equipment from Millanaj’s car.
Millanaj was arraigned Thursday at District Court, where bail was set at $75,000 with surety.
Aug. 25, 2022
Pawtucket man sentenced to 12 years in state prison for child molestation
PROVIDENCE, R.I. – A Pawtucket man has been sentenced to serve 12 years at the Adult Correctional Institutions for molesting a young girl in 2019.
Johnnie Doe, 57, was accused of molesting a girl under 14 years old at a home in Pawtucket in February 2019. The girl, who Doe knew, immediately called 911 after she was assaulted. The attorney general’s office said that the Pawtucket police were able to match Doe’s DNA to evidence on the girl’s skin and clothing.
A jury in Providence County Superior Court convicted Doe in June of four counts of second-degree child molestation.
Superior Court Justice Stephen P. Nugent sentenced Doe on Monday to 25 years, with 12 years to serve at the ACI and a 13-year suspended sentence, along with 25 years probation. The judge also ordered Doe not to have any contact with the girl. Doe is required to register as a sex offender, must attend sex offender counseling, and is subject to community supervision requirements.
Doe is facing sexual assault charges in a separate case that is pending in Providence County Superior Court.
Attorney General Peter F. Neronha praised the girl for coming forward, as well as the investigation by the police.
“The courage that this young victim displayed in reporting the defendant’s crimes against her and facing him in court is something that will stay with me for a very long time. I admire her and her family very much for their commitment to ensuring that this defendant will no longer be in a position to harm others,” Neronha said in a statement. “I am also deeply grateful for the outstanding investigative work by the Pawtucket Police Department in this case and in others as we work together to protect Rhode Island’s most vulnerable residents.”
The case was investigated by Pawtucket detectives Craig Letourneau and Robert Cardente and prosecuted by special assistant attorneys general Jonathan E. Burke and Taylor L. Matook.
Aug. 16, 2022
Attorney general finds no crime in alleged hazing of North Smithfield football players; investigation remains open out of concern for youths’ safety
NORTH SMITHFIELD — The North Smithfield police and attorney general’s office said Tuesday that they didn’t find evidence of a crime in their investigation this summer into allegations of hazing by the North Smithfield High School football team.
However, the attorney general’s office said the investigation raised concerns about the safety of football team members, and during the off-season, prospective team members, when no adults are around during team activities.
The North Smithfield School Department told the attorney general’s office on June 21 that it had allegations that older members of the football team had hazed the younger members or prospective members during team activities in spring 2022 when no adults were around.
The attorney general’s office and police immediately launched an investigation, with police interviewing more than 30 adults and youths. (Some parents did not consent for their children to be questioned.)
The attorney general’s office said in a statement Tuesday that no football team member or prospective member reported being subjected to physical contact that they characterized as inappropriate or criminal in nature. No team member or prospective member or parent requested criminal charges against anyone, and no adults, including football team coaches, said they witnessed physical contact among team members or prospective members that could be characterized as inappropriate or criminal in nature.
However, the attorney general’s office said that multiple witnesses credibly reported that there were times immediately before and after team activities that no adults were around. Some said they saw older team members be physical with younger team players or prospective players in ways the attorney general’s office found inappropriate.
Some older team members held down younger members, “making apparent physical contact with them, including in the buttocks and other sensitive areas,” the attorney general’s office said in a statement.
“Whether this plainly inappropriate conduct rises to the level of criminal misconduct, and whether criminal charges are possible if it does, remains undetermined at this time given the unwillingness to date of any team member or prospective member to come forward to describe precisely the physical contact that they were subjected to and make a criminal complaint to police,” the attorney general’s office said.
The authorities are keeping the investigation open and encourage anyone with information about hazing to contact the police department or attorney general’s office.
Aug. 9, 2022
Former North Kingstown VFW post commander admits falsifying military service and medals to get more than $250,000 benefits and charity
PROVIDENCE — A former social worker at the Rhode Island Veterans Affairs Medical Center pleaded guilty Tuesday to lying about being a cancer-stricken, decorated Marine, so she could obtain more than $250,000 in benefits and services for injured veterans.
Sarah Jane Cavanaugh, 31, will be sentenced on four federal charges on Nov. 10, the day before Veteran’s Day.
Cavanaugh had been the commander of North Kingstown Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 152 and wore a Purple Heart and Bronze Star on a Marine uniform at events, until allegations surfaced in late January that she wasn’t who she claimed to be.
An investigation found that Cavanaugh had stolen the identities of actual veterans who had sought treatment at the medical center, used medical records from a friend’s mother to make it appear she was being treated for cancer, and bought replica medals to display on the uniform.
At a remote hearing Tuesday before US District Court Chief Judge John J. McConnell Jr., Cavanaugh pleaded guilty to using another person’s military discharge certificate, the DD-214 form, aggravated ID theft, fraudulently holding herself out as a recipient of a Purple Heart and Bronze Star, and using communications in furtherance of fraudulent activities.
She faces a mandatory minimum of two years in federal prison, and a maximum sentence of 24 years. Under a plea agreement reached July 1, Cavanaugh has agreed to apply $82,489 toward restitution. The court will decide the final amount of restitution at her sentencing.
“Every day, thousands of American men and women honorably serve this country in uniform,” US Attorney Zachary Cunha said in a statement. “They sacrifice for our safety, putting themselves in harm’s way, often without praise or public recognition, and they deserve our thanks and our respect. This defendant sought to trade on that respect — respect she did not earn, evoked by a uniform to which she had no claim — by pretending that she was a United States Marine battling stage IV cancer, in order to trick generous members of the public into lining her pockets. Her conduct is disgraceful, and it richly warrants her conviction today as a federal felon.”
Jamestown Police: Teens forged signatures on 18-year-old’s nomination papers for governor
JAMESTOWN — Police have arrested two individuals accused of providing officials falsified nomination papers for an 18-year-old gubernatorial candidate.
The Jamestown Police Department charged Gracie Flynn and Owen Lockey, both 18, for allegedly conspiring to forge signatures on nomination forms on behalf of Zachary Hurwitz, an independent candidate for governor in Rhode Island. They were charged with providing a false document to a public official and conspiracy.
Hurwitz needed 1,000 valid signatures for his name to appear on the ballot.
An investigation was launched after the clerk’s office in Jamestown attempted to verify signatures from two Jamestown residents, police said. Both surrendered at Jamestown police headquarters and were released with a summons to appear in court. They will be arraigned on Friday.
— ALEXA GAGOSZ
Smithfield officer possibly exposed to fentanyl while making an arrest
SMITHFIELD — While conducting a search of a Johnston man this weekend, a Smithfield officer was potentially exposed to fentanyl and was taken to the hospital.
Police were called to the Seasons Corner Market on Douglas Pike Saturday morning for reports of a road rage incident, according to police. This unidentified officer spoke to both drivers involved, including 39-year-old Anthony Romano. While searching Romano for weapons, the officer found a plastic bag that contained “a white powdery substance” in his waistband, police said.
After finding the bag, the unidentified officer started feeling unwell. He was given a single dose of Narcan, which treats narcotic overdoses in an emergency situation, by another officer and then transported to Our Lady of Fatima Hospital in North Providence for potential fentanyl exposure. The officer was released from the hospital the same day.
Romano also had a brown bag that contained 390 suspected Oxycodone pills on him, according to police. He was charged with possession of more than 10 grams of cocaine and possession of over 10 grams of Oxycodone, police said. Romano was arraigned and released on $10,000 personal recognizance. He is scheduled to appear in court on Nov. 7.
Both substances were tested for fentanyl. It’s still unclear whether the officer’s symptoms were from fentanyl exposure, police said.
— ALEXA GAGOSZ
Aug. 5, 2022
Providence man sentenced to 42 years for 2015 murder at Providence apartment building
PROVIDENCE — A Providence man who pleaded guilty for the 2015 murder of a 54-year-old woman has been ordered to serve 42 years in prison.
Earlier this year, Efrain Blanco, 38, pleaded guilty to murdering Zenaida Pacheco at an apartment building on Randall Street in Providence. At his hearing on Aug. 3, Superior Court Justice Richard Raspallo also sentenced Blanco to an 18-year suspended sentence with probation after his time at the Adult Correctional Institutions in Cranston.
On Jan. 13, the defendant entered a plea of guilty to second-degree murder.
Attorney General Peter F. Neronha’s office said if the case had proceeded to trial, the state was prepared to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that on Oct. 25, 2015, the defendant strangled Zenaida Pacheco to death in her apartment.
Providence police detectives identified the suspect through cell phone records and surveillance footage. On Nov. 4, 2015, investigators released photos of the suspect to the media. Several weeks later, members of the public identified the suspect as Blanco, who was captured by detectives shortly after.
Investigators determined that Blanco used a power cord to strangle Pacheco. They confirmed Blanco’s DNA on the cord through laboratory testing.
“The day has finally come when this defendant must pay the price for his senseless murder of Zenaida Pacheco, a woman much loved by her family and her community,” said Neronha in a statement Friday. “Nothing can return Zenaida to her family, but we can deliver justice for her and for them, and that has now been achieved.”
Detectives from the Providence Police Department conducted the investigation. Special Assistant Attorneys General Molly Kapstein Cote and Eric A. Batista lead the prosecution of the case.
“The men and women of the Providence Police were again outstanding in their investigation of this case, and I am grateful for our ongoing law enforcement partnership.”
— ALEXA GAGOSZ
Aug. 2, 2022
Providence man sentenced to 14 years for role in gang-related mass shooting
PROVIDENCE — A Providence man who pleaded guilty for his involvement in a gang-related shooting that wounded nine in the city’s Washington Park neighborhood has been ordered to serve 14 years in prison.
Ricardo Cosme Tejada, 21, pleaded guilty to assault with a dangerous weapon and conspiracy, both of which carried a criminal street gang enhancement, discharge of a firearm during a violent crime that resulted in injury and conspiracy, carrying a pistol without a license and conspiracy.
Tejada also pleaded guilty to possessing a ghost gun in a separate incident in April 2021.
Before sundown on May 13, 2021, Tejada and three other members of the “Get Money” gang drove to 87 Carolina Avenue, where members of the “Lakeside” gang were hanging out on the porch. The Get Money gang jumped out of their truck and started firing at their rivals — who fired back, wounding all four of them. Four of the people on the porch were also wounded, and another was hit by shrapnel.
Police found 51 spent shell casings from different firearms sprayed on the road and the property at 87 Carolina Avenue, as well as bullets that went through a neighbor’s home.
Investigators also reported seizing 500 rounds of ammunition in various calibers, a dozen gun magazines that included some holding 20, 30, 40, and 60 rounds of ammunition, and multiple pistols, ghost guns, BB guns, and a rifle. They also found marijuana, THC, and Psilocin at the home.
Superior Court Judge Robert D. Krause sentenced Tejada on July 27 to 14 years at the Adult Correctional Institutions, with a 20-year suspended sentence and 20 years of probation for his involvement in the shooting on Carolina Avenue.
Krause also ordered Tejada to a concurrent sentence of five years, with two years to serve, followed by a three-year suspended sentence with probation, for possession of a ghost gun.
“While the Carolina Ave. shooting presents as an egregious example of gun violence in Rhode Island, it shares key characteristics that we have seen in many other shooting incidents since then: the wide availability of illegal guns, the number of rounds being fired, and the use in many instances of high-capacity magazines and ghost guns,” Attorney General Peter F. Neronha said in a statement Tuesday.
“The defendant was part of a group that that turned a peaceful Providence neighborhood into their own personal shooting range. The long sentence imposed by the court here should send a strong message that gun violence will bring the most serious consequences. The work of our law enforcement partners was exemplary during these cases, and I am grateful for their continuing partnership with this Office.”
Woonsocket man sentenced to five years in federal prison for trafficking crack cocaine
PROVIDENCE — A Woonsocket man who led a crack cocaine distribution operation, and who attempted to disguise his involvement by having others deliver drugs that he had arranged to sell, has been sentenced to five years in federal prison, US Attorney Zachary A. Cunha announced Tuesday.
Anthony Medeiros, 31, arranged at least four sales of crack cocaine, using text messaging, phone calls, and Snapchat, in Woonsocket in early 2020, according to court documents.
Medeiros utilized a “runner” to deliver the drugs that he sold, including, in one case, his girlfriend, according to an investigation by the FBI Safe Streets Task Force and Project Safe Neighborhoods.
Medeiros was arrested and detained in federal custody in October 2020 and indicted in November 2020, and pleaded guilty on May 6, 2021, to conspiracy to distribute cocaine base; distribution of cocaine base; and two counts of distribution of 28 grams or more of cocaine base. He was sentenced on Monday by U.S. District Court Judge Mary S. McElroy to 60 months of incarceration, followed by four years of federal supervised release.