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Five people, including a probate judge, charged for roles in alleged thefts from Cranston man’s estate

When he died, John Barbieri had collections of sports cards and firearms worth more than $1 million. Five people were indicted Wednesday in alleged thefts after his death.

R.I. Attorney General Peter Neronha. He and the Rhode Island State Police on Friday announced the indictments of five people, which were unsealed on Thursday.Lane Turner/Globe Staff

PROVIDENCE — A probate judge from Johnston, the owner of a gun repair shop, and three other people were indicted on Wednesday for their roles in the alleged theft of valuable sports cards and firearms collections from the estate of a Cranston man.

Attorney General Peter F. Neronha and the Rhode Island State Police announced the indictments, which were unsealed on Thursday.

The five people are accused in various ways of stealing from 71-year-old James Barbieri, a toolmaker, who died in April 2021 and left a collection of sports cards with an estimated value of more than $1 million and firearms worth more than $100,000, according to authorities. Barbieri didn’t have a will.

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Sylvia Santilli, 71, of Johnston was listed in Barbieri’s obituary as a “dear friend”; there were no other named survivors. However, authorities say that two days before Barbieri’s death at Rhode Island Hospital, Santilli began to take things out of his home without permission.

Then, when Barbieri died, Santilli and her 32-year-old daughter, Jillian Chatelle, and Chatelle’s boyfriend Luke Baughman, 37, searched on the internet for market rates for sports cards that were in the dead man’s collection, according to authorities.

The three are accused of taking sports cards and other items from Barbieri’s estate the day after his death, and then later selling part of the collection and storing the items at a storage unit for further sales.

Separately, authorities allege that that 69-year-old James Connors, who owns Jim’s Firearm Repair and Sales in Johnston, received and sold firearms that were unlawfully removed from Barbieri’s estate. Connors is accused of knowingly submitting a false accounting and receipts of the firearms sold. He is accused of selling multiple guns for more than the value he reported to the Cranston Probate Court.

Lawyer Priscilla Facha DiMaio, 65, who is a probate court judge in Johnston, is accused of filing with the Cranston Probate Court an application for approval of fiduciary and attorney’s fees for work she said she performed for Barbieri’s estate. The grand jury charged that DiMaio’s claims were false.

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Neither Connors nor DiMaio responded to the Globe’s request for comment.

Santilli was arraigned Thursday on charges of entering a dwelling to commit larceny, obtaining money under false pretenses over $1,500, conspiracy to obtain money under false pretenses, attempting to obtain money under false pretenses, conspiracy to attempt to obtain money under false pretenses, conspiracy to commit larceny, and two counts of larceny over $1,500.

Her daughter, Chatelle, was also arraigned Thursday on charges of receiving stolen goods over $1,500, conspiracy to receive stolen goods, obtaining money under false pretenses over $1,500, conspiracy to obtain money under false pretenses, attempting to obtain money under false pretenses over $1,500, and conspiracy to attempt to obtain money under false pretenses.

Connors was arraigned Thursday on charges of attempting to obtain money under false pretenses over $1,500, unlawful appropriation over $1,000, and three counts of providing a false document to a public official.

Baughman will be arraigned Monday on charges of receiving stolen goods over $1,500, conspiracy to receive stolen goods, obtaining money under false pretenses over $1,500, conspiracy to obtain money under false pretenses, attempting to obtain money under false pretenses over $1,500, conspiracy to attempt to obtain money under false pretenses, larceny over $1,500, and conspiracy to commit larceny.

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DiMaio will be arraigned Wednesday on charges of attempting to obtain money under false pretenses over $1,500 and providing a false document to a public official.


Amanda Milkovits can be reached at amanda.milkovits@globe.com. Follow her @AmandaMilkovits.