PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — A former Rhode Island state lawmaker has agreed to plead guilty to fraud charges, becoming the third former House member in 11 days to be charged with criminal conduct and prompting the U.S. attorney to decry the state's political culture.
The charges filed against Democrat Ray Gallison in federal court Monday include mail fraud, wire fraud, aggravated identity theft and filing false tax returns. Gallison, an attorney, acknowledged taking hundreds of thousands of dollars from a dead man's estate and other misconduct.
"This says something about our political culture here, which I think should get our attention," U.S. Attorney Peter Neronha said during a news conference announcing the charges and plea deal.
He listed a long string of local and state public officials his office has prosecuted and sent to prison, including former House Speaker Gordon Fox.
"I wish I could say with confidence that we are at the end of the line, and that no other trains will pass this way," Neronha said. "I suspect, however, that there will be more work to do."
Attorney General Peter Kilmartin was more measured, saying that while it's "no wonder the public has a mistrust of the government and their elected officials," most lawmakers are good, honest hardworking people.
"It seems that the public will be cynical and point to examples like those of the past two weeks," he said. "How many more times will we have to stand together to announce another case of public corruption before all public officials understand that misconduct is not, and will not be, tolerated?"
House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello commended the investigation, and fellow Democrat, Gov. Gina Raimondo, called the news disappointing.
Gallison was chairman of the powerful House finance committee until he resigned from the legislature in May amid state and federal investigations. His lawyer, Anthony Traini, didn't immediately return messages seeking comment.
Gallison acknowledged taking nearly $678,000 from the estate of a dead client for whom he was executor. He also acknowledged taking money from a nonprofit group that listed him as assistant director. The group was funded by state grants, and Gallison apparently never actually did any work. He also admitted taking $8,900 from the trust of a person with special needs.
Two other Democratic former House members who also left office amid questions about their conduct were charged in state court this month for unrelated conduct.
Former state Rep. John Carnevale was charged Jan. 12 and has pleaded not guilty to felony perjury charges and filing false documents after authorities alleged he lied about his place of residence.
Former state Rep. Peter Palumbo was arrested Thursday and charged with embezzling money from his campaign finance fund and filing a false document. He did not enter a plea, and his lawyer hasn't commented on the charges.
Following Monday's announcement, the good-government group Common Cause Rhode Island announced it is requesting audits of campaign accounts and financial disclosure statements of all General Assembly members.
A hearing has not yet been scheduled for Gallison to enter his guilty plea.