May 07, 2014LITTLETON— Some Courier readers made inquiries last week about a federal criminal case in Rhode Island. U.S. v. Baccari involves the alleged actions of Richard Baccari, Sr., and his company Churchill and Banks, a property developer. His son, Richard Baccari II, a company vice president since 2001, has applied for a zoning variance in Littleton to build a supermarket near Exit 41. The application is under the name Noble Development, not Churchill and Banks.
Both Baccari's father and Churchill and Banks are facing a federal trial for allegations of bribes paid to North Providence officials in order to get a supermarket zoning variance. The grand jury indictment was issued in October. Baccari II is the vice president for development at Churchill and Banks, and his father is the company's majority owner. Baccari II himself is not indicted, and he has not been charged with wrongdoing in the case.
At the initial town meeting on the proposal last month, Baccari II expressed interest in input from abutters and the town. He supported a continuance of the hearing in order to ensure Bethlehem and the North Country Council had a chance to comment on the proposal.
In the application submitted for the Exit 41 zoning variance, Baccari II lists contact information at Noble Development that is the same as Churchill and Banks. The companies are distinct legal entities, however, based on information available on the Rhode Island Secretary of State's office.
A call to Baccari II for this story was not returned in time for our Monday evening deadline.
In 2009, the senior Baccari supposedly agreed to pay $50,000 to ensure approval of the North Providence zoning variance. A U.S. Attorney's Office press release states the bag with the payoff money was allegedly thrown from one car to another in a restaurant parking lot.
The government relied on a town official to provide tape recordings and other information to document the bribery scheme. The North Providence zoning variance was unanimously approved shortly before the alleged bribe was paid. After the legal dust settled, the attorney for Baccari's father at the time and three town councilmen were found guilty. All are now serving federal prison sentences.
Earlier this year, the defense accused government prosecutors of knowingly using false evidence to ensure an indictment would be issued. According to the U.S. District Court, the next phase of U.S. v. Baccari is a May 30 pre-trial hearing. A judge will review five motions to dismiss the government's case. No trial date has been set.
If convicted, the senior Baccari faces up to 10 years in prison, as well as fines. Churchill and Banks could receive up to $1 million in penalties.
The variance hearing for the Exit 41 supermarket, which was continued last month, will be May 27. The lot in question borders the Town of Bethlehem and I-93, with several residential properties between the proposed development and Cottage Street.
In a recent letter from town manager Fred Moody to zoning board chairman Eddy Moore, the town made several recommendations. If the variance is granted, Moody requests a traffic study, as well as plans for a driveway and drainage. Noise and light mitigation is another item of concern to the town, according to the letter.
"The town's intent in this matter," Moody wrote, "is to limit negative impacts to the neighborhood and town services while promoting a healthy economy."