Why Robert Ceprano Is Getting the Blame

Here are the two-and-a-half versions from the KPMG report (courtesy of the Projo) of where the idea of John Cicilline writing a $75,000 check (that he couldn’t cover) to help reconcile Felix Garcia’s tax debt came from.
According to the version of events presented as Providence Tax Collector Robert Ceprano’s, John Cicilline more-or-less out of nowhere offers the $75,000 check as “collateral” for the taxes owed…

Ceprano related to KPMG that, on or about May 9, 2006, in a meeting with John Cicilline, Cicilline presented a check from his law office account made to the City of Providence in the amount of $75,000. The check was presented by John Cicilline in relation to the settlement agreement reached by him on behalf of his client Garcia, regarding the past due tangible taxes owed to the City of Providence by Garcia Enterprises. The check was dated May 9, 2006, and contained a notation in the memo line “Settlement 1998 – 2005 #99155320” (99155320 is Garcia Enterprises’ tangible tax account number).
Ceprano recalled that during the above referenced meeting with John Cicilline to discuss the Garcia Enterprises account, Cicilline offered to provide this check in return for the City’s agreement to lift the lien on Garcia Enterprises’ property at 559 Cranston Street. Ceprano advised that the understanding with John Cicilline was that the City would remove the lien and hold Cicilline’s check as “collateral,” until Garcia was able to complete a re-financing of this property, and pay the $75,000 to the City from the proceeds.
However, a little further in, the report suggests that tax collection attorney Scott Hammer may have been the one who came up with the idea of a lawyer writing a check for his client…
In our interview, Hammer’s recollection of the discussion regarding the check varied, although he ultimately confirmed that he did advise Ceprano he approved of the arrangement. He initially recalled that he thought it crazy for John Cicilline to offer to put up personal funds for his client, and that he advised Ceprano that accepting the check was not the best idea. On further reflection, in his discussion with KPMG, he indicated that he may have actually suggested that John Cicilline provide a check on Garcia’s behalf, as a way for Hammer and the City to become more comfortable with Cicilline’s request to have the lien removed. Hammer explained that he suggested this in order to protect his client and to have a guarantee of payment. While he acknowledged that John Cicilline’s check was not actually a guaranteed payment, he indicated that he was comfortable with the situation because the check was from an attorney, and the fact that the attorney was well known and was the Mayor’s brother.
Then even further in, according to a detailed version of John Cicilline’s recollection of events, Cicilline claims that the idea of using an uncashed check as collateral came to him as a suggestion from Ceprano…
Mr. Ceprano told Mr. Cicilline that if the City were provided a check for $75,000 as surety for the payment of taxes, Mr. Ceprano could see his way clear to releasing the lien for the purpose of allowing the refinance. Mr. Cicilline said he would talk to his client about getting a check to post to the City to be cashed after the refinance.
At that point in time, Mr. Ceprano stated that he did not want a check from Mr. Garcia. He said he would take a check from John Cicilline and hold it and not cash it. Mr. Cicilline was shocked. Mr. Cicilline inquired as to why he would give a check, drafted on his account, for taxes owed by his client. Mr. Ceprano stated that he (Mr. Ceprano) would feel more confident that the bill would get paid if John gave the City a check for $75,000 to hold. John responded by laughing and saying:
“I’ll do it but I don’t have that kind of money in my account.”
Ceprano said that was okay because he would just be holding the check until Garcia refinanced and paid the City. Again John laughed and said:
“That’s fine, but don’t try to cash my check if I write it for $75,000 because I’m broke. You would be lucky if I had $2,000 to $3,000 to my name.”
John went on to express that his account had never had that kind of money in it. Mr. Ceprano responded by saying that was fine; the City would not cash the check; it would simply buy some time for John’s client to refinance.
Can we presume that the firing of Robert Ceprano implies the city is accepting John Cicilline’s version of events as what actually happened?

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joe bernstein
joe bernstein
15 years ago

Let’s look at the opposing individuals.
David Cicilline routinely lies through his teeth.
He and his brother grew rich by representing the worst of the drug dealers that plagued this state,and particularly Providence.There is nothing inherently wrong in a criminal attorney representing a criminal(obviously),but that had real consequences for Providence.The people David Cicilline helped to avoid prison and deportation seriously diminished the quality of life in the city that David then claimed he was trying to im prove.Right out of Alice in Wonderland.
I got to know Bob Ceprano when we were both assigned to OCDETF,the federal/state/local drug task force.I was there for 9 years,Bob probably longer.Bob Ceprano made his living identifying and seizing assets amassed by drug traffickers.He is as honest a man as I’ve known in law enforcement.I cannot imagine he has been anything other than honest as the Tax Collector for the city I pay taxes in.
Who do you believe?
I’ll wait for the report from the Rhode Island State Police who have no reason to shade anything-they aren’t raking in $300 an hour from the mayor whose activities they are investigating.

15 years ago

For what it’s worth, I’ve hear the same thing as JoeB about Robert Ceprano. If this comes down to who can round up more character witnesses, John Cicilline or Robert Ceprano, the latter will prevail in a pretty lopsided fashion.
Obviously, of the three scenarios enumerated by Andrew from the report, the most damning of Robert Ceprano is John Cicilline’s.
And, obviously, we need to look for independent corroboration of all three scenarios – but especially of John Cicilline’s. He was undoubtedly acutely aware that he started all this, that he had put his brother in a jam. Accordingly, John Cicilline would be very anxious to do what he could to help out. The best way would be to assert that the tax collector knowingly and deliberately accepted, in fact, solicited, a bad check on behalf of the city. That would considerably diminish the most damaging aspect of this incident – the appearance if not the fact of inequitable political influence – for his brother.

Jim Jameson
Jim Jameson
15 years ago

We also should not forget that John Cicilline is a convicted felon. Who should we believe the convicted felon who actions were called “reprehensible and inexcusable” as the time of his sentencing? Who do you think a jury will believe?

15 years ago

First,it wasn’t John Cicilline who was shocked,but Vincent Berretta who was listening in on the phone call.Second,the inclusion of John Cicilline’s version* was only included as a pacifier to the family,because as anyone reading the auditor’s report can clearly see,the audit was done ,at taxpayer expense,only to shield the Mayor from a potential RICO conspiracy indictment.Finally,there is not a totally honest person involved in any phase of this sordid matter. *The mere writing of a check knowing there are insufficent funds to cover said check is prima facie evidence of an intent to defraud.

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