OCTOBER 07, 2008
A federal jury found a hospital executive guilty of bribing a Rhode Island state lawmaker embroiled in a vast political influence peddling scandal that has already led to the imprisonment of two legislators.
This week’s conviction is the latest in a lengthy and widespread investigation of ongoing Democratic corruption in Rhode Island’s state legislature. Dubbed “Operation Dollar Bill,” the probe is being conducted by a joint task force of federal and state investigators and has targeted politicians as well as the rich corporations suspected of bribing them.
The first to fall were a pair of corrupt lawmakers who pleaded guilty to selling the influence of their respective offices. State House Majority Leader Gerard Martineau is in federal prison for taking hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes from a drug-store chain and a major health insurer and state Senator John Celona for taking bribes to kill state legislation deemed harmful to a Providence hospital. In 2006 Celona was also fined $130,000 for committing 10 ethics violations by doing undisclosed consulting work for health companies.
Celona’s bribes were provided by the chairman of Roger Williams Medical Center, Robert Urciuoli, who was convicted this week. A jury deliberated for five days before finding the Providence hospital executive guilty of conspiracy and dozens of counts of mail fraud.
Other politicians are being investigated by the state/federal task force, including the state’s Senate President (Joseph Montalbano) and Senate Finance Committee Chairman (Stephen Alves) as well as the Senate’s Deputy Majority Whip (Daniel DaPonte). A pair of Democrat state representatives (John DeSimone and Robert Flaherty) is also being probed for their relationship to an insurance company.
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