A federal judge told a former Rhode Island politician on Thursday he had “already suffered tremendously” before sparing him from prison for his role in a $40,000 home insurance fraud scheme involving an ex-radio host.
Chief Judge Mary M. Lisi ordered Robert Ricci, 50, to spend four months in home confinement as part of a two-year probation sentence following his guilty plea to conspiracy and mail fraud charges. Ricci, a former North Providence Town Council president, also was ordered to pay $1,000 in restitution and complete 200 hours of community service.
The federal charges stem from spring 2010, when former WWLI radio host Lori Sergiacomi’s home was damaged during flooding that devastated much of the state. Ricci, who also had a home contracting business, repaired the roof of Sergiacomi’s home, which prosecutors said had been purposefully damaged.
Lisi noted that Ricci had already lost his state job and will have to disclose to potential employers, lenders and others from now on that he is a convicted felon. She also said the consequences Ricci endured are tougher than those his co-defendants are facing and described a letter he sent to her as “refreshing” because he took responsibility for his actions.
“He has already suffered tremendously as a result of his involvement in this fraudulent scheme,” Lisi said. She later added: “You made a very poor choice by getting on the train with these people. You paid for it dearly.”
His other co-defendants, former North Providence Councilman John Zambarano, 48, and insurance adjuster, Vincent DiPaolo, 62, already have pleaded guilty. Zambarano was sentenced in May to nearly six years in prison on insurance and corruption charges. DiPaolo will be sentenced on Oct. 27.
Prosecutors had sought four months of prison time for Ricci. He said he was sorry.
“I want to apologize for what I did. I was wrong,” Ricci said. “I have no excuse whatsoever. … I only have myself to blame.”
Prosecutors say Sergiacomi did not have flood insurance and that Zambarano and DiPaolo advised her not to file a claim with the Federal Emergency Management Agency because the agency would only offer her a loan. Moreover, they told Sergiacomi, a federal loan would not cover roof and swimming pool improvements she wanted to make, prosecutors say.
Instead, prosecutors say Sergiacomi’s home was deliberately damaged to make it look as if the damage was due to a wind and rain storm. Sergiacomi’s insurance claim said the fictitious storm took place on April 5, 2010, when the National Weather Service reported fair weather in the Providence area with temperatures in the 70s.
The insurance fraud was discovered during an investigation into a separate pay-to-play bribery and extortion scheme orchestrated by Zambarano and two other then-town councilmen, prosecutors said. Wiretaps caught Zambarano boasting over the phone about his handiwork, according to the indictment.
Ricci pleaded guilty in June to conspiracy and four counts of mail fraud. He was not in office at the time of the scheme.