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R.I. developer pleads not guilty in US corruption probe

PROVIDENCE — A prominent real estate development company and its president and chief executive officer pleaded not guilty Tuesday to charges in a federal corruption probe that has already brought down three North Providence town councilmen.

Richard Baccari Sr. and his company, Churchill & Banks Co., both pleaded not guilty in US District Court in Providence. They are each charged with one count of bribery and one count of conspiracy. Baccari owns 51 percent of the company, his lawyers said in court.

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Prosecutors said Baccari and his Providence-based real estate development firm paid a $50,000 bribe in 2009 to the councilmen through middleman Robert Ciresi, a former town solicitor who was working for the company. In exchange, authorities said, the councilmen agreed to a zoning change so the developer could build a supermarket.

Magistrate Judge Patricia Sullivan released Baccari on $50,000 unsecured bond and ordered him not to leave the country.

Baccari’s Boston-based lawyer, Anthony M. Cardinale, and John W. Mitchell, a New York-based lawyer for Churchill & Banks, asked the court for a speedy trial. In a court filing, they said the mere existence of the charges has harmed the firm’s business and Baccari and his family personally.

‘‘He can’t wait to get to court,’’ Cardinale said outside the courthouse. ‘‘We want this case to get to a jury as soon as possible.’’

When asked if his client had been involved in giving a bribe, Cardinale said, ‘‘He pled not guilty because he is not guilty.’’

Former town councilmen John Zambarano, Joseph Burchfield, and Raymond Douglas III pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy, extortion, and bribery in 2011. Ciresi went to trial and was convicted by a jury in 2011 of conspiracy, bribery, and extortion. All four are serving prison terms.

A fifth man, Edward Imondi, pleaded guilty to facilitating a $21,000 bribe for a different development.

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