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Bonus Episode: Crimetown Live in Brooklyn

Listen to some of your favorite Crimetown characters swap stories before a live audience.

May 21, 2017

The Crimetown Season One Soundtrack

To celebrate the end of our first season, Crimetown is releasing a soundtrack featuring many of the songs from the show.

May 18, 2017

Chapter 18: The Prince of Providence

In the season finale of Crimetown, Buddy Cianci finds himself behind bars. But he’s not finished yet.

May 8, 2017
View show transcript

MARC SMERLING: In December of 2002, on a gloomy winter day, 61-year-old Vincent “Buddy” Cianci arrived at Fort Dix federal prison in New Jersey.  He was there to serve a sentence for racketeering conspiracy.  Here he is talking to the coauthor of his autobiography.

DAVID FISCHER: Wasn’t there a time when you sat down and said, What am I doing here? This is insane.

BUDDY CIANCI: Absolutely. It is insane. But when you get there, you can’t make the time do you. You gotta do the time.

MARC: Buddy had once rubbed shoulders with senators, governors, even presidents. But now…

BUDDY: Oh, I worked in the kitchen they put me there because I was high profile, they got to show the mayor, serving food. I never did this work before. I had to mop floors, I had to wash dishes, I had to scrub pans and all that kind of stuff.

MARC: And he made friends. One of the first guys he met was a mafio capo from Rhode Island named Matty Gugliametti.

BUDDY: They had heavy hitters there, there was, uh, Gugliametti was there, mafia guy. He’s a nice guy by the way. I used to razz him all the time, I said you guys are so smart, you’re on more tapes than Frank Sinatra.

MARC: And Gugliametti wasn’t the only Rhode Islander Buddy would meet in prison. Buddy also met someone you might remember from previous episodes.

CHARLES KENNEDY: What are the chances of me landing in the same dorm with him? It was just luck that I did.

MARC: Charles “the Ghost” Kennedy.

CHARLES: I was very impressed with Buddy. Because I’m there with somebody who can have a conversation without wanting to kill everybody. Started hanging around with him and I would go to dinner with him and when he would get out of work, I would go to his cell. Buddy was in a two man cell and it was like a little oasis for me because now I could get out of the dorm, and go sit down and read and we’d talk. It was very enjoyable for me.

MARC: Charles and Buddy both liked to keep up on current events. And Buddy had lots of newspapers and magazines sent to him in prison.

BUDDY: I used to get tons and tons, it was embarrassing because I’d stand and guys wouldn’t get any mail. I would get like 30, 40 pieces of mail a day sometimes.

CHARLES: And me, I’m always a voracious reader and I want my newspapers, I love the Providence Journal, I devour it. I go, Buddy can I get on the train? He goes, you’ll be first in line. He had the best subscription of newspapers.

MARC: Picture it: Buddy Cianci, the fallen prince of Providence, in a prison cell with Rhode Island’s most notorious drug dealer, sitting side by side on a bunk, passing sections of the newspaper back and forth and making jokes that only another Providence political junkie would get.

CHARLES: He had a windbreaker that he liked to wear. And he lost it. And he was upset. I knew somebody working in the laundry. I told the kid, I said I need a large windbreaker, the orange one. The kid brings it over to my cell…

When Buddy was indicted and he had a press conference. He said that you’ll find no stains on his jacket. And I took out a little sticky pad I had and I put a note on it. And I said, I hope you like your new jacket. And you’ll find there are no stains on this jacket.

So I’m looking at his reaction and he opens it up and and he started laughing. And I always told him, I said, Buddy, you’re no criminal. You know, in the classic sense.

ZAC STUART-PONTIER: When we first met Buddy Cianci, way back in episode one, he was a crusading prosecutor taking on the mob. Now, Buddy’s behind bars with the same criminals he put away at the beginning of his career. For the mayor of any other city, this would be the end of the road. But Buddy isn’t any other mayor. And Providence isn’t any other city.

MARC: Today, in our last episode of the season, the final chapter in the story of Buddy Cianci, the longest serving mayor of Providence, Rhode Island. I’m Marc Smerling.

ZAC: I’m Zac Stuart-Pontier. Welcome to Crimetown.

[TITLES]

JOE PAOLINO: Oh, I hated him. I wanted everything bad to happen to him. He worked hard to make sure I get defeated for city council and for mayor. I worked hard to defeat him for mayor.

MARC: This is Joe Paolino. He became the mayor of Providence after Buddy was forced from office the first time… for beating up a guy in his living room.  And when Buddy attempted his comeback, in 1990, Paolino fought hard against him.

ARCHIVAL PAOLINO: I want to ask every single person in this room to band with me and to agree with an ideal and a goal, that this city will never be turned back to the crooks ever again!

MARC: But many years later, after Buddy had been sent to prison, Joe Paolino ran into a mutual friend and asked about his old political enemy.

PAOLINO: And I said gee, how’s he doing? And why don’t you write him a letter? I said, what am I going to do? Ask him how you’re doing at Fort Dix? I said, what do you ask him? She said, just tell him gossip. Just wants to hear what’s going on.

One letter, a one-page letter, I got a return of three pages. Sent him a page and a half, or two pages next. I got a five page letter. All of a sudden, we became pen pals. Through that, he asked me after about a year or two, would I ever consider visiting him? I had never been in one of those places before. So I said, yeah. Put me on the list and I’ll come down. Got there at about 10 in the morning. And you gotta go in and they have a locker you put things in, your clothes and they check you out, and you’re going through a door and then another door, The place is dirty, there’s a cafeteria, vending machines all over. I was told to bring a lot of quarters and dollar bills.

MARC: Joe watched as prisoner number 05000-070 walked into the visiting room. In a simple khaki uniform, Buddy looked thinner and older. And he wasn’t wearing his toupee.

PAOLINO: Didn’t have the squirrel on his head. We sat down, we started talking. Talk about mutual friends, talked about family. Then comparing notes about mutual enemies. Remember I did this to you? Yeah, you remember when I did this back to you?

MARC: Two ex-mayors, sitting across a cold metal table, reminiscing about the old days.

PAOLINO: I said, Buddy, how they give you all the credit? I had the shovel, I started the project. He said, but I cut the ribbon, that’s what they remember. Buddy and I used to kid each other and um, he’d say, I’d say, but Buddy, I really did that. No Joe, I really did that. And finally, we’d say, okay we both did it.

And we just kept on talking. I gotta tell ya, it went by like 20 minutes. It went by like 20 minutes. He asked me if I’d come back again, and I said sure. I mean, when I left there, I just shook my head the first time thinking boy, this guy doesn’t belong here. Too much talent, wasted in a box.

MARC: But even in that box, Buddy still found ways to use those political talents.

.BUDDY: One night, I’m laying down in my bunk and a guy had come into the room. New guy from New York. Sits up there and he stole somebody’s toothpaste. So a guy from another room comes in and says, you stole my toothpaste. I saw you steal my toothpaste. They’re gonna fight. And in prison when you know they’re gonna fight take the shoes off and they put their sneakers on. ‘Cause they have better footing, yeah.

MARC: To prevent a fight, Buddy stepped in and suggested the prisoners take a vote to decide if the new guy from New York should be reported to the guards.

BUDDY: They go around the room. I want him out, too, he could steal my shit. I was missing something from my locker last week, he might have taken it. Now the vote comes down to me. Mayor, they used to call me mayor, what do you think? I said I think you’re all fucking nuts. There’s gonna be a big investigation as to who stole the fucking toothpaste. We’re all gonna go to the fucking hole. I said now look it, up there. You, you’re a fucking drug dealer. You robbed a fucking bank. You, you’re a fucking computer hack. You you’re whatever you did. I go around and said him, he stole fucking toothpaste. The problem is he’s got nothing. Now that’s why he stole toothpaste. I got shit in my locker, I got up I says I’m gonna give him some toothpaste. Pass the laundry bag around, why don’t you help him out, give him something, maybe then he won’t have to steal anymore. Guy’s got nothing. Yeah, alright. I said how many of you guys would like to have a trial, and how would you like to be treated like this, where you can help somebody out? Wouldn’t you like to be treated like that? All right mayor, you’re right. These kids had no brains, they were gonna risk going to the hole for four weeks, five weeks for investigation, over a fucking tube of toothpaste.

MARC: Buddy became the unofficial mayor of Fort Dix. A guy you could talk to. But building relationships in prison had its downsides.

BUDDY: I lived with those guys. And you establish relationships. They leave, they either get transferred to another prison or their time is up, you’ve lost a friend. They would leave and I would watch them from my window. And their whole life is in a laundry bag. You know, they give you a laundry bag and you take it out. And you gotta buy it, by the way. And they have their couple pairs of socks, a couple pairs of underwear, and maybe some toiletries, and a couple books, and some letters. And they’re on their way out. And you’ll never see them again. But there’s always hope when they leave because you know they had their day and you’re gonna get your day.

BRAD TURCHETTA: The phone call comes in the night before, He says, this is Warden so and so. I have your Uncle on the phone.

MARC: This is Buddy’s nephew, Dr. Brad Turchetta.

BRAD: And Buddy gets on the phone, in Buddy’s’ voice, and says boss, I need you here at 4 AM. I said what? Just be here at 4 AM. I’ll give you back to the warden.

The warden said to me that they had had so many calls from the media to say that they wanted pictures of him, they want him coming out of prison. The warden did not want any kind of that media hype, so he had us go down early. And couldn’t tell a soul.

MARC: It was May 29th, 2007. That evening, Brad picked up Buddy’s daughter, Nicole, and they hit the road.

BRAD: I was gonna be the driver, and she and I were gonna go down, and pick him up. That’s five plus hours. We get to the prison, and we have to go to a certain gate we’ve never been to, so we’re trying to find it, and we eventually find it and pull off the road.

So we’re waiting and all of a sudden, I see a car up ahead, flick its lights on and off. So I turn my lights on. And so he drives over, my heart’s beating, I’m in the middle of New Jersey, nowhere. And a guy rolls down his window and he says, are you here to pick up the package? And I said, I guess I am. So we follow him, we go inside the gate, and there’s Buddy. In another car, he’s got a satchel full of his personal items. And, we sign him out. So, he’s happy, we get in the car, and we start driving to a private road that leads us to the Jersey turnpike, and we are up and gone.

BUDDY: And all the press was waiting at one gate, and they thought I was gonna get out at 9 o’clock in the morning. And I remember listening on the radio, oh, we are waiting for the mayor, live television, we’re waiting for the mayor, we’re waiting, we’re waiting, we have a telescopic lens. I was already going over the George Washington Bridge when that was happening.

MARC: Brad had assembled a care package for Buddy. A cell phone, potato chips and Twizzlers, and Buddy’s toupees.

BRAD:  There were a bunch of toupees that he had, so I brought them all. I think there were four, actually.

MARC: Once they were in the clear, Brad pulled over at a rest stop, so Buddy could take a moment to enjoy his freedom.

BRAD: We pull over and we get out of the car, and he lights up a cigarette. He’s in his sweats, he takes a few drags, and he’s got his toupees I brought him. He puts them on and I don’t know if his head shrank, or the toupees grew, but they looked ridiculous. He starts taking some drags of the cigarette and he starts doing this, all I can describe it as his crane walk.

Picture Ralph Macchio of The Karate Kid, with his arms up in the air. Buddy goose stepping forward with a toupee on and a cigarette in his mouth.  Smoking like he’s high.  So excited to breath in fresh free air. Sight I’ll never forget.

RON ST. PIERRE: When he returned, when he came back from prison. It was just electric, it was a buzz.

MARC: This is Ron St. Pierre, the talk-show host you met in last episode. And now, he wanted to give Buddy his old radio show back.

ST. PIERRE: I remember saying to my boss, you won’t spend a penny on promotion, okay? It’s just one name. It’s Cher, it’s Ringo. Boom, everybody knows. All you have to do is say Buddy.

MARC: Buddy settled into a life as a local celebrity and radio talk show host, commenting on the news of the day.

BUDDY: They don’t even need secret service, if anyone ever bumped off Obama, which we don’t ever want to see, Biden would be President. My God. You know how awful that would be if Biden was President? That’s the best security you could possibly have is Biden…

MARC: Rendering judgement on those in power:

BUDDY: This caught my eye – Nancy Pelosi. She spent a little over $2.1 million just on criss-crossing the country in a big air force jet. How about that.

MARC: And of course, taking calls from his fans:

ARCHIVAL CALLER: I used to call in and tell you I was the only guy who voted for governor.

ARCHIVAL BUDDY: Oh god that’s years ago. That’s from the old days. I ran for governor in 1980 and we all have a reunion, we meet in a phone booth, everybody who voted for me.

MARC: In 2008, Buddy decided the time had come for him to write his autobiography. So he partnered with a prominent author named David Fischer. They first met at the Biltmore Hotel in downtown Providence and this is a recording of that first meeting.

BUDDY: I’ll just tell you by way of introduction. This hotel is a famous old hotel. Willie Loman in Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman says to his kids you know I was in Providence this morning selling and I was having breakfast with the mayor of Providence at the Biltmore Hotel, nice guy. So I always remembered that line and years later, Arthur Miller came to the Biltmore Hotel at a dinner and so I met him and I gave him the key to the city and I said, now you’re really going to meet the mayor of Providence.

MARC: David taped hours of conversations with Buddy. You’ve been hearing some of those recordings this season. And during one of their many dinners, David asked Buddy a question: would he ever run for mayor again?

FISCHER: Would you consider it again?

BUDDY: Sure.

FISCHER:  You would?

BUDDY: Yeah. I don’t think my accountant would like it. I would do it just for, I don’t like the way I left. I’ve never walked out of that office shall I say, I don’t know what it’s like to leave that office because your term was over.

FISCHER: Every time you leave the office, lawyers were involved.

ARCHIVAL CALLER: I think if you ran for mayor tomorrow you would get it.

ARCHIVAL BUDDY: Oh thank you for saying that but they got a mayor and we want him to do well.

ARCHIVAL CALLER: Oh yeah sure.

ST. PIERRE:  It didn’t take me long to realize that he was never not running for public office. If you know what I’m saying, right?

MARC: Again, radio talk-show host, Ron St. Pierre.

ST. PIERRE: If straddling the fence was an Olympic sport, he would get the gold, you know what I’m saying, maybe the silver and the bronze too.

MARC: Could Buddy Cianci, a two-time felon, twice kicked out of office… make another comeback?  That’s… after the break.

[BREAK]

MARC: Welcome back. One afternoon in 2014…  after months of speculation… Buddy Cianci took to his radio show to make an announcement.

BUDDY ARCHIVAL: Today, I wish to share with you my personal plans for future public service. There are some of you who may say that this is an 11th hour decision. But I assure you it was not made rashly or in haste. Rather, it has been conceived with much soul-searching and reflection. Today, with a sense of humility, contrition, and confidence, I announce to you my candidacy for mayor of Providence.

BUDDY ARCHIVAL: Thank you. Joseph, how are you. Been a while. Thank you. How you doing? Thanks for being here.

MARC: Buddy Cianci was running for mayor … for the seventh time.

MEET THE PRESS ARCHIVAL: The 73-year-old Cianci wants his old job back holding court on this night at a drag bingo game.

BUDDY: Under the B for Buddy, 6!

NEWSCASTER: Why dive back in?

BUDDY: We’ve had over a decade of decline in the city, that’s number one. And i looked around to see who was running and none of them had the vision so I decided that I would run for mayor.

NEWSCASTER: Cianci has his share of critics but the polls show Providence just might give Buddy another try.

ANNOUNCER: Now, Campaign 2014: the Providence mayoral debate.

MODERATOR: Live from Rhode Island College a televised debate among the candidates for Providence mayor… First, let’s tackle the topic that has been front and center from the beginning, at least since at last June, which has been Mr. Cianci’s entrance into the race…

MARC: Buddy was running as an Independent.  And his main opponent was a young Democrat named Jorge Elorza.

MODERATOR: Mr. Elorza, at a recent forum you said, and I quote, I think it’s an embarrassment that Mr. Cianci is running for mayor. If he’s such an embarrassment, why are more than one in three voters supporting him?

JORGE ELORZA: You know, that’s truly the question. We have a clear choice in this campaign. We can vote for honest leadership that moves the city forward, or we can go back to the failed and corrupt politics of the past. Let’s leave behind all of the corruption and what led the ex-mayor to go to jail.

MARC: Buddy’s Republican opponent, Daniel Harrop, put a finer point on it.

DANIEL HARROP: Mr. Cianci has a half century history of recurrent thuggish criminal behavior.

BUDDY:  Well let me tell you this. I’ve made mistakes in my life. I’m sorry for them. I’m humbled by them. But there were no mistakes in the area of developing the city of Providence, when I was Mayor.

PAUL CAMPBELL: I’d been with him for a long time, and he was not 100% during that 2014 campaign. You can see it in the debates.

MARC: This is Paul Campbell, Buddy’s friend and longtime campaign manager.

CAMPBELL: He wasn’t as sharp as he had been in the past.

BUDDY: 66, the next, wait a minute, my budget went from 2002 to 2003, basically.

MODERATOR: 64% in 2003.

BUDDY: Yeah so it was up there. But it was the plan, it wasn’t 100%, never said it was 100%, and if I misled you, I’m sorry…

CAMPBELL: But I think his mind was somewhat distracted. It would certainly distract me, trying to deal with a challenge like that. I knew that he was sick and he was being treated for colon cancer. Apparently he had delayed treatment for a while and it was pretty advanced. And I told him that he’s got to make the decision based on his own goals, his own vision, and in a sense his own survivability.

MIKE STANTON: I went up to a barbershop up in you know the Elmhurst section of the city.

MARC: Longtime Providence Journal reporter Mike Stanton followed Buddy’s campaign.

STANTON: And there was this old Italian barber holding court about Buddy and how he loved Buddy. And this guy had a huge Cianci for mayor campaign sign on the roof of his building. And all around him was all these new Guatemalan immigrants. But then this quiet little sign in the window of the Guatemalan bakery you know was for Jorge Elorza, his opponent and the demographics of the city had changed.

ARCHIVAL NEWS: In one of the state’s most closely watches races, the race for Providence mayor, political newcomer Jorge Elorza beat out two time mayor independent Vincent Buddy Cianci and Republican Daniel Harrop.

BUDDY SPEECH: I can tell you that it’s kind of a bittersweet night tonight because this will be my last campaign…for this year. You know there were some people who said that we shouldn’t even have been in this race. And maybe they were right. However, I can tell you this. I can tell you that I loved every minute of it. I can tell you that it was a great experience. And it was a great, great love affair that I have with the city of Providence that will never end, that will continue till the day I die.

ZAC: Check, check, check, check, check. So we are in Downtown Providence.

MARC: Off to City Hall for the unveiling of the official Buddy Cianci mayoral portrait.

MARC: It’s now 2015, and Zac and I are in Providence for a special event… A new portrait of Buddy is being unveiled in City Hall.

MARC: Hi, how are you. We’re here for the unveiling.

MARC: We walk into the Alderman’s Chamber and wait for Buddy to arrive. This will be my second time meeting Buddy Cianci.

When I was twenty-one, a friend took me for a drink at the Biltmore Hotel. He saw Buddy and pointed him out, sitting alone at the bar hovering over a martini.

My friend asked if I wanted to meet the mayor of Providence. So we walked over, and Buddy lit up.

It was just a chance encounter.  A guy, who knew a guy, who happened to know the mayor. But Buddy made me feel like an old friend. He asked me questions about myself and told stories. We talked for half an hour and then, said our goodbyes.

Not long after, I read an article about a fireplace log and a cigarette…how Buddy had attacked a man in his living room. I couldn’t recognize the Buddy I was reading about as the Buddy I’d just met. And that…  the inability to reconcile the two sides of Buddy… never left me.

When Zac and I started this podcast, I got Buddy’s cell phone number, and he and I talked a few times.

And that’s how I find myself here in City Hall at this portrait unveiling. I am here to convince the six time mayor of Providence to talk to me about his life.

ZAC: There he is.

MARC: There he is. Here comes Buddy. Coming over to say hello. Which is amazing. Hey Buddy, I’m Marc Smerling. We talked on the phone. How are you?

BUDDY: Oh! You’re Marc?

MARC: I’m Marc. Came by to see you. This is Zac.

ZAC: Hi, I’m Zac.

BUDDY: I saw you on TV. I told you. At the uh, Durst thing. It was amazing. It was funny. Absolutely. How are you.

MARC: And just like that, Buddy’s off to shake another hand, win another vote in an election that will never happen.

PAOLINO: Before I, we start the ceremonies I do want to say a few things.

MARC: The man MC’ing the ceremony… is Buddy’s old enemy turned friend, and prison visitor… Joe Paolino.

PAOLINO: Because if anybody ever asked me in the 1980s would I ever be the MC for Buddy Cianci’s portrait, I would have done just what you’re doing now. And I need to tell you that sometimes the best friend that you can have is somebody that’s your greatest foe.

MARC: Paolino finishes his introduction and it’s finally time.. to see Buddy’s new portrait.

PAOLINO: Wow, look at that.

MARC: There, high up on the wall is Buddy as he used to be, as everyone remembers him: standing in the mayor’s office, toupee on his head, presiding over the Renaissance City—his city.

Then Buddy as he is today—old and bald and thin—steps up to the microphone.

BUDDY: Well let me say, this is quite an honor, but I must say, it’s not the first time I’ve been framed.

MARC: After Buddy speaks, people mill around, while picking at cheese plates and drinking white wine. It all seems too much for Buddy.  He walks over to a bench and sits down.

MARC: Buddy doesn’t look so good.

ZAC: Want to get him a water or something? He just fell over.

WOMAN: He’s not doing good.

MARC: Buddy slumps over. He’s not responding… He seems to have passed out.

ZAC: He’s collapsing.

SECURITY: Clear the hallways! Get to the sides!

MARC: Security starts to clear the room.

ZAC: Did you guys see what happened?

VOX: He was just sitting and I saw them slapping his face, wake up, wake up. That’s all I saw.

VOX: It’s hot in there.

MARC: Buddy is taken away in an ambulance.

MARC: Wow. Well, um, yeah. Oh my god, if he doesn’t live – we were there the night Buddy Cianci died. We got his last speech.

ZAC: It was a good speech.

MARC: It was a good one. It really was a good one.

ZAC: You saw his hand though? His hand was like this.

MARC: He was having a stroke. Probably had a stroke. The heat.

 

MARC: But then a few hours later, Buddy is spotted at an after-party at his favorite Italian restaurant on Federal Hill.

ARCHIVAL BUDDY: I’m fine, I was a little dehydrated. I’m back eating and looking forward to having my pasta. The room was hot.

MARC: Buddy, who’s made so many improbable recoveries over his long career, seems to have made another one.  We keep in touch.  Not long after, Buddy calls.. to say he’s ready to talk on tape. We set a date, and I tell him I’ll see him soon.

And then, a couple days later, he dies.

ARCHIVAL NEWS: We have from confirmed sources that former Providence mayor Vincent “Buddy” Cianci has died. Cianci has passed away at the age of 74.

MARC: Roughly a year earlier, when Buddy knew he had cancer and was deciding to run for mayor one last time. He sat with his friend, Joe Paolino and made a list of pros and cons.

PAOLINO: I said, let’s look at the cons. Cons, you’re gonna lose a lot of money. You’re going to be kissing women with jelly donuts in their mouth at a home for the elderly. I said, you’re going to do all this stuff that we’ve always had to do in order to get a vote and you have cancer.

Okay, let’s look at the pluses. Pluses? You’re probably going to die in office. You can tell your police commissioner, show me what my funeral will look like. You tell ’em, I want to be, lay out in City Hall.

ARCHIVAL NEWS:  Thousands gathered at city hall this weekend to say goodbye to Cianci..

PAOLINO: You want a horse-drawn carriage.

ARCHIVAL NEWS: His casket was carried down the steps this morning and was brought by a horse drawn carriage to the Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul.

PAOLINO: You want to have the people throwing roses at the hearse, up Atwells Avenue, saying they miss you.

VOX: He did so much for this city and we all love him and we’re all gonna miss him.

PAOLINO: He said, now you’re making it enticing.

MARC: Turns out, Buddy didn’t need to win the election to get the funeral he wanted.

VOX: You know, he was a gentleman. Besides his faults. You know, everybody has faults.

VOX: There was nothing wrong with what this guy did. I believe that he just loved Providence too much.

MARC: At Buddy’s funeral, the church is packed with people from his past. Cops, politicians and judges sit shoulder to shoulder with crooks and ex-cons.  They all grew up together, attended school together, went to each others’ weddings—and funerals.

PRIEST: That those in public office may promote justice and peace while continuing the work of our brother, Mayor Vincent A. Cianci Jr. Let us pray. Lord in your divine providence, hear our prayer.

MARC: In death, just as in life, Buddy divided the city. Some praised him, some condemned him. Others just remembered him.

JERRY TILLINGHAST: Personally, he got fucked.

MARC: Jerry Tillinghast, the wiseguy who helped round up votes for Buddy so he could win his first election:

TILLINGHAST: Anyway, and then last summer when he was running for mayor, I run into him up the hill. He’s sitting there and he’s looking at me, and I says, You don’t remember me Buddy? I said, Jerry Tillinghast. He says, how you doing? We shook hands. He says, You still live in Providence? I started laughing, says, mo but I still have a lot of relatives, I’ll do what I can for you. He said thanks, and that was that.

DENNIS AIKEN: I think he’s a man who wasted the talents he had.

MARC: Dennis Aiken, the FBI agent who brought Buddy down:

AIKEN: I think he was smart. But he used it for his own greed and personal satisfaction, he loved nice things and he loved power. And power took over. He could have been a really, really good mayor, or even more. ‘Cause he certainly had the talent. But he didn’t choose that road.

MIKE STANTON: He’ll be remembered as Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

MARC: Mike Stanton, the reporter who trailed Buddy and wrote a book about his life:

STANTON: That mixture of good and evil, that ability to bring people together, and drive them apart. That the ability to have this vision for the city on the Hill but then kind of drag the city into the sewer. It’s very complicated. He’s a very complicated man…If he was just Dr. Jekyll he would be boring. We wouldn’t care about him, if he was just Mr. Hyde, we would hate him and despise him and not want to know much about him.

PRIEST: No one – not a politician or a priest, not a bishop or a bus driver, should ever be defined solely by their faults.

CONGREGATION: Lord, in your divine providence, hear our prayer.

MARC: Providence is essentially two hills, on either side of a river. On one side is Federal Hill, the former headquarters of Mob Boss Raymond Patriarca. On the other bank is the East Side, where Brown University is, where the doctors and lawyers and professionals live.

BUDDY: The one great contribution to the city that I made was all this physical stuff, yeah maybe. No it wasn’t it. It was the raising of the self esteem of these people in the city who always thought that they were pieces of shit.

MARC: Providence has never quite been able to reconcile its two halves, just as Buddy was never able to reconcile his: the dark Buddy and the light, the Jekyll and the Hyde.

BUDDY: You got people to believe in themselves, they had to focus around an individual. And they focused around me. They’d say Cianci, and it’s cause I had all this national shit of all the trouble I had. But the city came alive too and it became a national story. And I became their guy.

MARC: And in the end, it’s impossible to say whether Buddy changed Providence, or Providence changed Buddy.  Buddy was Providence. And Providence, for better or worse, was Buddy.

BUDDY: Almost like a symphony, a city has got to sing, it’s got to dance. And it has to be neighborhoods, it has to be streets. I mean like a musical score.

 

ZAC:  Marc and I want say thanks to everyone who listened to this first season of Crimetown. We had a lot of fun making this show. And to our team: Drew, Austin, Kaitlin, Matt, and Laura — you are all rockstars… thank you for making the show what it is.  We really couldn’t have done it without you.

And Alex. You never wavered.  You brought us into the Gimlet family and we learned so much. It’s truly been an honor.

Keep an eye on our feed for bonus episodes. And for news about season two… it’s coming.

 

MARC: Crimetown is me, Marc Smerling and Zac Stuart-Pontier.

We are produced by Drew Nelles, Kaitlin Roberts, Austin Mitchell, and Mike Plunkett. Our associate producer is Laura Sim.

We’re edited by Alex Blumberg and Caitlin Kenney.

Fact-checking by Mick Rouse.

This episode of Crimetown was mixed, sound designed, and scored by Matthew Boll.

Additional mixing by Enoch Kim, Martin Peralta, and Kenny Kusiak.

Additional sound design by Ted Robinson at Silver Sound.

Our title track is “Run To Your Mama” by Goat.

Our credit track this week is “Rhode Island Is Famous for You,” covered by Rosaleen Eastman.

Original music by John Kusiak, Kenny Kusiak, Jon Ivans, Edwin and Bienart.

Our ad music is by Matthew Boll.

Our digital editor is Rob Szypko. Our design director is Ale Lariu.

Archival footage courtesy of WPRI Channel 12.

Alex Blumberg is The Podfather…He has a half-century history of recurrent, thuggish, criminal behavior.

This season of Crimetown is dedicated to the memory of Bill Malinowski.

Thanks to The Providence Journal, Julia Heymans, Emily Wiedemann, Brad Turchetta and the Cianci Estate, Kate Parkinson-Morgan, Yuya Kudo, Tim White, Lisa Newby, Wayne Miller, Kate Wells, Mary Murphy, Dan Barry, David Jacobson, and everybody who shared their stories with us.

For a full list of credits, bonus content, and to sign up for our newsletter, visit our website at crimetownshow.com.

You can find us on Twitter @crimetown, and on Facebook and Instagram @crimetownshow.

And if you enjoyed Crimetown, leave us a rating and review on Apple Podcasts. It really helps others find out about the show. Thanks.

Providence is a special place, and we’re honored to have told a part of its story.

[CODA]

ZAC: Alright so they are handing off a box. Marc’s got the box in his hand. And oh my god, on it is written “Buddy Tapes.”
MARC & ZAC: Holy shit.

Chapter 17: The Trial of Buddy Cianci

In the wake of an FBI investigation into City Hall, Buddy Cianci must fight for his political future. Is he the Renaissance Mayor—or is he running a criminal organization?

April 30, 2017
View show transcript

BUDDY CIANCI: Welcome, good afternoon. We’re violating some kind of fire ordinance in here. Anyway, my name is Buddy Cianci and I’m the mayor of Providence. As you know I’ve been indicted by federal prosecutors today.

ZAC STUART-PONTIER: It’s April 2, 2001. Mayor Vincent “Buddy” Cianci has just been indicted on 27 criminal counts including, racketeering, conspiracy, witness tampering and extortion.

BUDDY: Many of you have commented on the length of the indictment and I have it here. It’s 97 pages. It goes on and on and on. I’m not afraid of this. 97 times 0 is 0.

And what is contained in this, it’s nothing but lies, it’s allegations and I’m not involved. And this will be one of the biggest challenges that I’ve ever had in my life or will ever have. I didn’t do this stuff. I’m not guilty of this stuff. I’m gonna fight it as long as I can and as far as I can. I will go all the way to the Supreme Court, the Hague. Wherever they want to go. Because this is not true.

REPORTER: Mayor, mayor emotionally what’s this day been like for you when you found out?

BUDDY: What I felt today when I heard about this. I’ll tell you what I felt. I felt enraged, I felt mad and I’ll defend these charges until the day I die.

REPORTER: Are you nervous?

BUDDY: Never be nervous. Just be smart.

PRESS: Mayor, mayor, mayor.

[DRUMS]

MARC SMERLING: In the last episode, we told you about Operation Plunder Dome — an FBI agent and an air-conditioning contractor went undercover to investigate Providence City Hall. They made hundreds of tapes, capturing city officials accepting bribes.

ZAC: But how much did Buddy Cianci really know about the corruption in his own administration? Today’s episode, the trial of Mayor Buddy Cianci. I’m Zac Stuart-Pontier.

MARC: And I’m Marc Smerling. Welcome to Crimetown.

[TITLES]

MIKE STANTON: I’ll never forget the first day. It was a circus.

ZAC: This is former Providence Journal reporter Mike Stanton. He covered Buddy for years and was there when the Plunder Dome trial began.

STANTON: I mean you had New York Times front page, New Yorker magazine. Reporters parachuting in and out. And I just remember this breathless TV reporter sticks  a microphone in Buddy’s face. And he says, Mayor, what do you think of the media circus? And without skipping a beat Buddy says, what are you calling yourself a clown?

MATT LAUER: When you heard of Plunder Dome, Mr. Mayor, what did you think?

BUDDY: As far as I was concerned, I wasn’t involved in anything. There were some people in the tax office trading favors for small amounts of money. I knew nothing about it.

LAUER: Listen to these charges, Mr. Mayor. We’re talking about racketeering –

BUDDY: Oh yeah.

LAUER: Conspiracy, extortion, mail fraud, witness tampering

BUDDY: Not guilty.  On all of those counts…

ZAC: Outside the courthouse people lined up to see the mayor on trial. Opponents protested government corruption while supporters passed out t-shirts and bumper stickers that said “Free Buddy.”

NEWS: The Plunderdome trial is well underway. Opening arguments paint two very different pictures of what went on in Providence City Hall during the reign of a popular and controversial mayor, Vincent A. Cianci Jr.

ZAC: Journalist Mike Stanton watched as Buddy’s lawyer, Richard Egbert, gave his opening argument:

STANTON: Richard Egbert talked about how he’d woken up at dawn that morning and walked around this magnificent city with the river walks, and the mall and the beautiful restored buildings and he said this truly is a renaissance. And then the prosecutor got up and talked about how this was a city for sale and this beautiful renaissance was a movie set, facade, and behind the scenes there was all this corruption, and the city finances were on the brink.

TAPE TONY FREITAS: Five hundred bucks alright for now?

TAPE JOE PANNONE: Yeah yeah.

ZAC: The prosecution played tapes of city officials accepting bribes.

TAPE FREITAS: One, two, three, four, five…

ZAC: Prosecutors had flipped many corrupt officials caught on tape and their first witness was a guy you might remember: David Ead.

NEWS: David Ead, was on the stand and all the tapes played today involved Ead and Antonio Freitas, the Providence businessman who worked undercover for the FBI.

TAPE DAVID EAD: When I bring the big ten down to him, the doors will be open for you like you can’t believe.

TAPE FREITAS: I don’t mind giving the mayor ten grand. I don’t mind paying the bribe whatever you call this shit, I’m not used to this.

TAPE EAD: I don’t want to mention it no more. Don’t mention it. We understand.

NEWS: He said he arranged three bribes totalling $25,000 for Mayor Cianci. Ead said Cianci instructed him to deliver the bribe money to Cianci aides.

ZAC: But Buddy’s defense attorney had done his own investigation of David Ead. Again, journalist Mike Stanton.

STANTON: Richard Egbert walks up to the podium with this big, thick binder. And he slams it down on the table. And he says these are your gambling records from Foxwoods. And he said, would it surprise you to know been there 780 times in the last four years. And you’ve lost over $800,000 that you’ve gambled.  Because obviously Egbert was trying to make the argument that Ead lost money at the casino and that’s where the money went, it didn’t go to Buddy.

ZAC: This became the central question in the trial: did the money actually make it into Buddy’s hands?

NEWS 1: It was a long day but as the participants including Mayor Cianci let the courthouse, they knew there would be many more long days ahead.

NEWS 2: So on Monday, the next witness will be Christopher Ise, he’s the man who admitted paying a $5000 bribe to get his job at City Hall.

NEWS 3: Prosecutor Richard Rose said bribes and extortion were the order of business in exchange for…

STANTON: It was like one of these thrillers where there’s all these perils of Pauline moments where the hero looks like he’s about to go over the cliff or the waterfall. And the government would come in. And they’d have these burly tow truck drivers talking about how they would pay them bribes. And the Cianci campaign was shaking them down. Or this million dollar lease was going from the school department to this convicted felon. And then you see Buddy’s key henchmen on tape taking the bribes. And then Egbert would get up there and Buddy would kind of relax and smile as he would try to undermine their stories…

ARCHIVAL: Stay with you, your nonstop news source for the most complete Plunder Dome coverage, ABC will bring you hourly updates for the duration of the Plunder Dome trial.

IMUS: And a hand for Mayor Buddy Cianci…

ZAC: During the trial Buddy was still the mayor…running the city and being Buddy.  This is him with radio host Don Imus, broadcasting live from the Biltmore Hotel in Providence.

IMUS: I guess this is a fair question. Do they have anything on you? I mean I know you said you’re innocent.

CROWD: (laughter and applause)

BUDDY: I’m the longest running mayor in the US. I’m very proud of that. I’ve had a lot of trials and tribulations. So you say you have anything on you, I thought I made that clear when I said I was not guilty.

IMUS: Well no, you can say you’re not guilty and still have something on you and you would know about it…

BUDDY: (laughing)

ZAC: Back at the trial, the prosecution called their next witness.

STANTON: Probably the worst moment for Buddy was after Steven Antonson testified about the University Club.

ZAC: Again, journalist Mike Stanton.

STANTON: Steve Antonson was a kid who loved politics and he went down and volunteered for one of Buddy’s first campaigns. And he became one of these wide-eyed young men who adored Buddy, Buddy took him under his wing.

ZAC: Buddy appointed Antonson to the building board of review, responsible for city building and renovation permits.

STANTON: And so Buddy puts Steve on this board and when something comes up, you know, Steve’s supposed to do what he’s told.

ZAC: And what came up was an old grudge between Buddy and an elite East-side establishment called The University Club. Years ago, the club had rejected Buddy’s membership application… and when they needed a building permit for some renovations…

STANTON: Now it’s payback time. Steve Antonson, who serves on this building board and gets the call from Buddy. You’ve got to block the university club. You gotta fuck em. And he basically succeeds in shutting the club down. So one of the charges against him is extorting a membership in the University Club.

ZAC: Eventually, the FBI approached Antonson. He admitted that he had rejected the University club’s permit on orders from Buddy Cianci. When Buddy heard about the meeting, he called up Antonson to find out what he’d told the FBI. But Buddy didn’t realize that conversation was being recorded.

PHONE BUDDY:  Hello.

PHONE STEVE ANTONSON:  Hello.

PHONE BUDDY:  Steven.

PHONE ANTONSON:  How are you Mayor?

PHONE BUDDY:  Good.  How did it go today?

PHONE ANTONSON:  Well it was different, I’ll tell ya.

PHONE BUDDY:  What’d they do?

PHONE ANTONSON:  Well.  I’ll tell you how it started. SA:  Some guy, Aikens, Atkens …

PHONE BUDDY:  Yeah, yeah, yeah …

PHONE ANTONSON:  He called.  He asked to meet with me.

PHONE BUDDY:  Yeah.

PHONE ANTONSON:  So I go all the way down there. He’s like adamant about the University Club and you.

PHONE BUDDY: Oh he’s full of shit.

PHONE ANTONSON:  And they say you think about the truth (laugh) and then you  come in and and whatever. But I mean if they start saying about you, what do I, just play stupid.

PHONE BUDDY:  What do you mean stupid?

PHONE ANTONSON:  I mean I can’t say nothing.

PHONE BUDDY:  What did I ever ask you go do, nothing (laughs)?

PHONE ANTONSON:  No, but I’m saying, you know what I mean.

PHONE BUDDY:  No, I don’t know what you mean. I don’t recall speaking to you.  I don’t recall speaking to you before that meeting on that issue at all.

PHONE ANTONSON:  I don’t remember it.

PHONE BUDDY: That’s what I’m gonna tell them when I talk to them.

PHONE ANTONSON:  Alright.

PHONE BUDDY:  I talk to you. I never fucking talked to you once.  It might have been afterwards.

PHONE ANTONSON:  Alright. No, but I don’t know what they’re gonna ask.

PHONE BUDDY:  Oh Steven, you know you have nothing to be concerned about.

PHONE ANTONSON:  No.

PHONE BUDDY:  You’re not a target or suspect.

ZAC: This tape was played in court. The jury listened as Buddy told a city official not to cooperate with a federal investigation.

PHONE ANTONSON:  No I’m not.  I totally agree with you.

PHONE BUDDY:  Don’t let those guys intimidate you.  Don’t be a volunteer for the U.S. Government.

PHONE ANTONSON:  No. I’m not.

PHONE BUDDY:  Yeah.  I mean.

PHONE ANTONSON:  No.

PHONE BUDDY:  Who the fuck do they think they are? They’re trying to put words in your mouth. This is a, this is just  that U.S. Attorney’s Office, or not U.S. Attorney, it’s them trying to find an extortion because I got a club membership  out of it which I didn’t even want.

PHONE ANTONSON:  (Laugh).

PHONE BUDDY:  That’s what it’s about.  That’s what it’s about.

PHONE ANTONSON:  Yeah, I don’t know.  It’s crazy.

PHONE BUDDY:  I know.  Alright.

PHONE ANTONSON:  It’s crazy.  Alright.

STANTON: It was a key piece of evidence because it was Buddy on tape, not sounding very good.

PHONE BUDDY:  Thanks.  And by the way, don’t volunteer anything …

PHONE ANTONSON:  Okay.

PHONE BUDDY:  Over there, you know.

PHONE ANTONSON:  No problem.

PHONE BUDDY:  Just, you know.

PHONE ANTONSON:  Alright.

PHONE BUDDY:  Alright.

PHONE ANTONSON:  Bye.

PHONE BUDDY:  Bye.

STANTON: The testimony ended and Buddy just sat there stone-faced and he’s drumming his pen on his pad. And the jury — I always like to watch the jury and they’re kind of staring at Buddy without any sympathy in their eyes.

NEWS: Tomorrow morning at 9:30, the judge will instruct the jury. And after seven weeks of testimony, the fate of Mayor Cianci and his co-defendants will rest with the jury. In Providence, Jim Taricani, news channel 10.

ZAC: The jury decides Buddy’s fate . . . after the break.

[BREAK]

ZAC: Welcome back. After seven weeks of testimony in the trial of the United States of America vs Vincent A. Cianci Jr. Buddy’s fate now rested in the hands of the jury. And the question of his guilt or innocence spilled out onto the streets of Providence.

MAN: I want Buddy to win. I want Buddy to win. We need him for Mayor of Providence. Let my Buddy go. I’m gonna start crying

WOMAN: We’re basically just flat out as a society calling him a liar. And that’s really uncalled for when the contributions he’s made don’t lie.

WOMAN 2: Are there any laws about running for office if you’re in jail? I don’t know.  I personally would find it hard to vote for someone who was a resident of our prisons.

WOMAN 3: I think he’s a great salesman, he’s an excellent politician but that’s different from I guess having integrity.

STANTON: Buddy couldn’t go far. He had to stay within 10 minutes of the courthouse in case the jury comes back.

ZAC: Again, journalist Mike Stanton.

STANTON: So basically, he was holed up in his office across the Kennedy Plaza in City Hall. And there was a weekend in the middle of the deliberations, it was a Saturday night and the Providence Gay Pride parade was being held.

And Buddy went to the parade. And he was the Grand Marshal and he was being driven in a convertible by a drag queen named Bebe, and I went out and said, I gotta capture this scene. Middle of this trial and Providence has a very vibrant gay community. And Buddy’s always been seen as a champion of it. So I’m standing by the side of the road. And he sees me and he says, Stanton, is that you. And I say, yes Mayor. And he says, get in the car. So I get in the car with him and we ride through the parade.

And there’s you know, throngs of people and we. And he takes me to a gay bar. And we go in and it’s like, pulsing lights and throbbing music. And we’re having drinks, and drag queens are coming up and having their pictures taken with Buddy.

Guys dancing on stage in diapers, and one of Buddy’s aides says to him, boy this is life in the Renaissance City, huh mayor. He goes, more like ancient Rome. And he’s holding court. And he’s talking about the stress of the trial and he’s talking about some of his old political battles. And regrets.

And then he gets kind of boozy and sentimental and he’s kind of, he gives me a ride back in his limo to my car.

He didn’t want to be alone with his thoughts and his demons, I think. Especially in times of great stress. A lot of people would remark on how amazing it is that this mayor could be so together and go out and do all these public events with the stress of a trial. But I think he fed off it, I think it kept him going.

NEWS: We are understanding now that the jury has reached a verdict in this case that is what we’re being told and just within the last couple of minutes there has been a flurry of activity down here on Kennedy Plaza. the Providence Police brought down a contingent of people –

[Phone rings]

NEWS: Hummel. I’m sorry, what? Cianci. Come back to me, come back to me, come back to me.

I’m hearing from Tim Furlong, Mayor Cianci guilty on the first charge the RICO count that has just come up from the jury. Count one, Mayor Cianci guilty on the conspiracy charge.

BUDDY: The first verdict that came down was guilty, it was on the conspiracy.

ZAC: This is Buddy, talking to the coauthor of his autobiography.

BIOGRAPHER: What goes through your body? What’s the emotional feeling?

BUDDY: It was numbness. Um, I was looking at the lawyer and I was going to say something, he say shh! Because we had a long verdict. And so the disheartening part was to hear every single other verdict not guilty… when that happened, that’s when it really hit me.

ZAC: Buddy wasn’t convicted of taking money from guys like David Ead and he wasn’t convicted of extorting a membership to the University Club. But…

STANTON: The overall weight of the case – seven weeks – is that jurors were struck at how many city officials were coming to the witness stand with deals of immunity. They were struck by how many city officials didn’t seem qualified to be city officials. It cuts both ways. It cuts the way of, well you can’t believe these guys as witnesses against the mayor versus. Why is he pointing and reappointing these people surrounding him and surrounding himself with these people –

ZAC: Buddy was found guilty of just one charge: racketeering conspiracy, under a law known by the acronym RICO.  The law was originally designed to prosecute mob bosses who kept their hands clean by sitting back and ordering hits from afar.

STANTON: There’s really poetic justice in the fact that Buddy Cianci starts out his public life as a prosecutor using the RICO laws, to prosecute the mafia and Raymond Patriarca. And then we come full circle at the end of his career and he was prosecuted under those same laws.

ZAC: The RICO statute says that you don’t have to be directly involved in a crime… to be convicted. All prosecutors need to prove is that you’re the head of a criminal organization.

STANTON: RICO is actually not designed to get the mob guy who gets shot at the end of the movie. It’s to get Mr. Big, the man downtown who’s orchestrating it all. As Buddy said I was convicted of being the mayor of Providence. And I guess you could say that’s true (laughs). That would mean different things to different people but he was certainly convicted of being the mayor of Providence.

ZAC: Buddy was sentenced to five years and four months in prison. September 5, 2002 was his last day in office.

RON ST. PIERRE: I got in touch with him and said look you want to come on the radio?

ZAC: This is Ron St. Pierre. At the time he was the manager of the radio station WPRO.

ST. PIERRE: He starts drooling, of course he wants to come on the radio. How much? Is the first question. I said that’s something we can work out. And we cut a deal. And he co-hosted the morning show 9 to noon for the 3 weeks before he went to Fort Dix. I’m not making this up.

BUDDY: The place I’m going to, There’s no alcohol there, there’s no good wine. I’ll probably end up giving up smoking ‘cause you can’t smoke in the buildings – you can smoke outside the building. It’s like going to a very very inexpensive spa, I think you have to look at it that way right.

ST. PIERRE: He did the show up until the Friday before he was to go to Fort Dix. And I remember he’s finishing up and he comes into my office, which was a no smoking area — I’d try to enforce that with buddy. And he shuts the door and said can I smoke? I said sure. He’s looking out the window at the field behind my office. And he’s quiet for like 30 seconds. It felt like an hour. I said what are you thinking about? And he said, how much I’m going to miss the green. Then he’s back to the Buddy… back to the character. He’s back to entertaining.

RADIO HOST: Shall we go to the phones.

RADIO BUDDY: Yeah let’s go.

RADIO HOST: Let’s go to Ann in North Providence, you’re on WPRO, Hi Ann.

RADIO BUDDY: Good morning, how are you Ann?

RADIO ANN: Hi, Buddy, I’m fine. I’m very sad about the situation. I want you to know you’ll always be our Buddy. And I want you to hang in there. And I want you don’t give up. And we’re looking forward to seeing you back here in Rhode Island.

RADIO BUDDY: But there’s no one looking forward to coming back here more than me, let me tell you.

RADIO ANN: I know, I know. You was in our prayers yesterday at the dinner table

RADIO BUDDY: Oh thank you.

RADIO ANN: And you’ll always be. And if I could occasionally send you a card to encourage you, I would love to do that.

RADIO BUDDY: Oh that’d be great

RADIO ANN: And we love you.

RADIO BUDDY: Thank you so much.

RADIO ANN: God bless you

RADIO BUDDY: Happy Holidays

RADIOHOST: Thank you Ann

BUDDY:  Prison, when I went there, I had to report on a Friday at noon. And I left the night before. Because I wanted to get there on time.

ZAC: This is Buddy Cianci talking about the night he left Providence for prison.

BUDDY: It was almost surreal. I was living in the Biltmore hotel. And I went downstairs. All the press was there. Take their last shot at me. And, it was very poignant because I’d built that ice rink across the street from the Biltmore Hotel. And the Christmas Carols were all playing.

And it was a snowy day and everybody was beginning to enjoy the Christmas season. It was December 5th. My driver he took me to prison. I remember I had told him to get two sandwiches from Murphy’s Delicatessen. Some corned beef sandwiches. And I took a bottle of scotch.

He drove. I drank a little bit and had a sandwich. Watched the city as I left. It was very very sad. And I knew I wouldn’t see anybody for like four and a half years, five years.

I was glad it snowed because it took us a lot longer to get there.

And I got there. And there was an army guard there, an army soldier. He saw me. He recognized me. I guess from the news or– and he asked me for my autograph So gave him the autograph, waited. And I said is this the right place to come? He said yeah.

So here I am shackled and chained. Guards with guns. And I said, “what the hell has my life come to?”

MARC: Next time on Crimetown: it’s the final episode of our first season. And we say goodbye to Buddy Cianci and the city of Providence, Rhode Island.

ZAC: Crimetown is me, Zac Stuart-Pontier, and Marc Smerling.

We are produced by Kaitlin Roberts, Austin Mitchell, Drew Nelles, and Mike Plunkett. Our associate producer is Laura Sim.

We’re edited by Alex Blumberg and Caitlin Kenney.

Fact-checking by Mick Rouse.

This episode of Crimetown was mixed, sound designed, and scored by Matthew Boll.

Additional mixing by Enoch Kim and Martin Peralta.

Our title track is “Run To Your Mama” by Goat.

Original music by John Kusiak, Kenny Kusiak, Jon Ivans, Edwin and Bienart.

Our ad music is by Matthew Boll.

Our digital editor is Rob Szypko. Our design director is Ale Lariu.

Archival footage courtesy of WPRI channel 12.

Alex Blumberg is The Podfather… he just left the Gimlet offices… being driven in a convertible by a drag queen named Bebe.

This season of Crimetown is dedicated to the memory of Bill Malinowski.

For more on the Plunder Dome trial, check out Mike Stanton’s book, The Prince of Providence.

Thanks to The Providence Journal, Julia Heymans, Emily Wiedemann, Tim White, Lisa Newby, Kate Wells, Mary Murphy, Dan Barry, Robert Arellano and everybody who shared their stories with us.

For a full list of credits, bonus content, and to sign up for our newsletter, visit our website at crimetownshow.com.

You can find us on Twitter @crimetown, and on Facebook and Instagram @crimetownshow.

And if you’re enjoying Crimetown, leave us a rating and review on Apple Podcasts. It really helps others find out about the show. Thanks.

Providence is a special place, and we’re honored to tell a part of its story.

[CODA]

HARMONICA MAN: Well we way up here in Providence. Little road to see a dear old friend. Who in trouble but protest his innocence, say he ain’t guilty of whatever the prosecution may contend. And so the mayor he just laughed at the 25 counts of which the man has been accused. And it may be sycophancy, but despite the evidence preponderance he, just a victim of circumstance he, just little innocent Vincent Cianci. I ain’t no fuddy-duddy I just got a case of my good old buddy Buddy’s blues.

Chapter 16: Operation Plunder Dome

An unlikely duo—an FBI agent from Mississippi and a businessman from Portugal—join forces to fight corruption in Providence. Will they take down Buddy Cianci?

April 23, 2017
View show transcript

DENNIS AIKEN: In ‘94, The FBI asked me where I wanted to go. And what better place to go then back to Rhode Island to finished something that I’d started many years ago. To take a look at Buddy.

MARC SMERLING: This is FBI Agent Dennis Aiken. You might remember him from prior episodes.

Back in the 1970s, when Buddy Cianci was first mayor, Aiken investigated rumors of corruption at City Hall. But by the 80s, Aiken had transferred, and Buddy had been kicked out of office for assaulting a man in his living room.

Now, it’s the 1990s. Buddy’s back… and so is Agent Aiken.

AIKEN: I believed that Buddy was corrupt. And I believed that if I came back here I might could help to fix that.

MARC: And when did Buddy figure out you were back?

AIKEN: When it came to reality for him was when I bumped into him in the Capital Grill. He was walking out and I just happened to be walking in. And I literally almost bumped into him. I looked at him and said, “Hi, Mayor.” And he looked at me as though he thought he’d seen a ghost. And he says, “Oh, you’re back.” I says, “Yeah you know I’m back.” I’d been involved in a lot, a lot of corruption cases using different techniques and I knew that the undercover technique was the best.

MARC: Aiken brought in some undercover agents. They posed as out-of-town businessmen trying to score contracts with the city.

CITY HALL: Good afternoon, Mayor Cianci’s office.

HENRY MARCO (FBI AGENT): Yes is this the mayor’s secretary?

CITY HALL: Yes it is.

MARCO: Yeah, hi. My name is Henry Marco —

CITY HALL: Right, Mr. Marco could you hold on because I’m on an important call right now. Hold on please.

MARCO: Thank you.

AIKEN: That went over like a lead balloon because they didn’t know who they were.  They weren’t going to get introduced to anybody.

CITY HALL 2:  Hi, may I help you.

MARCO: Hello, my name’s Henry Marco. I’m waiting to make an appointment with the mayor. Either Thursday or Friday.

CITY HALL 2: I didn’t hear that, I’ll have to look at my schedule… Gee, Henry, I don’t have anything as a luncheon. Who is this with? What’s taking place?

MARC: The undercover agents weren’t getting anywhere. Nobody at City Hall knew them or trusted them. Agent Aiken needed someone closer to home. Someone brave enough… and maybe crazy enough… to go up against the Mayor.

AIKEN: I was very frustrated and I read a newspaper article about a guy who had tried to get a lease with the city.

MARC: In the article, a local businessman complained about losing a school department contract to park buses in a vacant building he owned. His name was Tony Freitas.

TONY FREITAS  Every three years there was a bid…I got a call from the Providence Journal from a reporter. She wanted to do a story about the building, the bids, and she gave me a tip. That I was the low bidder, that I was not going to get it. I didn’t realize they were using me to bid on the property because there was someone else paying bribes. And that’s what get me involved.

MARC: Tony had immigrated from Portugal as a child. He built a successful heating and air-conditioning business.  But he always felt like the city’s political insiders looked down on him because of his accent.

FREITAS: It was the nerve that they had to use me. Like, “Oh he has an accent he must be stupid.”

AIKEN: So I decided, I’m gonna go see this guy Freitas. Didn’t know him. I had no idea what he would say to me. Didn’t know anything about him and just called him up and said, “I want to come see you.”

FREITAS: I got a call from the FBI. I says, “Good, what took you so long, come over.”

AIKEN: And it was one of the most amazing conversations I’ve ever had in the Bureau.  Tony’s a different, different guy so I asked him if he’d talk to me some more, he said, “I’ve got a better idea. What if I put on a wire?” He was the first guy ever that asked to put on a wire.

FREITAS: I says, “Ok I want to go undercover, I want to get these cockroaches.”

[DRUMS]

AIKEN: He says, “Yeah yeah.” He says, “We’ll clean up the city.”

MARC: Dennis Aiken and Tony Freitas made for an odd couple. But Aiken was desperate for an undercover operative. And Tony was itching to go undercover.

ZAC STUART-PONTIER:  Today’s episode: an unlikely duo… the FBI agent from Mississippi and a Portuguese air-conditioning contractor join forces to take on Buddy Cianci.

I’m Zac Stuart Pontier.

MARC: I’m Marc Smerling.

Welcome to Crimetown.

[TITLES]

BUDDY, STATE OF THE CITY ADDRESS: Thank you all very much please be seated as I was walking in one of the directors of one of our community centers said to me it’s Washington’s birthday and I said, I can’t tell a lie and I won’t today.

MARC: This is Mayor Buddy Cianci, delivering a state of the city address at City Hall.

BUDDY: As we prepare for the new century, Providence is rediscovering her greatness. Our generation is transforming this city so completely that native sons returning after a long journey can hardly recognize the city of their birth. Riverfront parkways, ornamental fountains, and festive street lamps…

MARC: By 1998, Buddy’s renovation of downtown Providence was in full swing. They called it a renaissance. To a lot of people, Buddy was a hero. But not to FBI agent Dennis Aiken.

AIKEN: Of course my first question: What’s Buddy really up to? He was getting a lot of publicity a lot of it was self-generated. They were talking about a mall. Providence Place Mall. It was the Renaissance City. But everything was just not as it really seemed to be. The city was broke. it didn’t take much research to realize that everything was on a credit card.

MARC: To find out what Buddy was really up to, Agent Aiken launched an investigation. He called it Operation Plunder Dome.

MARC: Who came up with the name Plunder Dome?

AIKEN: It was a combination of a lot of things. I was looking at the dome on the city hall. I wanted to use dome and I was thinking of the Mad Max’s Thunderdome. So we came up with Plunder Dome. It was the stupidest name I ever came up with. I’m telling you, it stuck.

MARC: Corruption investigations like Plunder Dome can be complicated. Agent Aiken knew he would have to follow up on every lead, work every possible angle…and follow the money.

AIKEN: You have the mayor, then you have the director of administration who runs the day-to-day operations of the city and then you have the tax collector, the tax assessor, right. I’m paying taxes, where’s the money flowing, the tax collector and the tax assessor. So we decided to focus there because that would get us closer to everybody else.

MARC: And luckily, Agent Aiken’s partner, Tony Freitas, knew just where to start.   He had already had a run-in with the chairman of the tax assessment review board: a guy named Joe Pannone.

AIKEN: He says, “Joe Pannone tried to shake me down and I wouldn’t pay him.” So I told Tony, “Let’s call Joe back. And tell him that you’ve seen the light, and although you wouldn’t pay before, you’ve learned.

TAPE JOE PANNONE: Hello.

TAPE FREITAS : Hey good morning Joseph.

TAPE JOE: Good morning, how are you.

TAPE FREITAS : Ok, buddy.

TAPE JOE: Ok buddy, who’s this?

TAPE FREITAS: Tony.

TAPE JOE:  What are you doin”?

MARC: This is an FBI wiretap of a conversation between Tony Freitas and Joe Pannone.

TAPE FREITAS: Here’s why I’m worried. One of the properties, I have never, never received a tax bill.

MARC: Tony tells Joe Pannone that he hasn’t received his property tax bill and he’s worried about late penalties.

TAPE FREITAS: Maybe we can do something with somebody, I don’t know, you know better than me. You tell me what to do, you know.

MARC: Tony plays dumb. And, right away, Pannone offers to help.

TAPE PANNONE: Well whenever you want to go down City Hall I can get you right in, that’s the point.

TAPE PANNONE: Stop in Tuesday, City Hall.

TAPE FREITAS: Tuesday at City Hall?

TAPE PANNONE: Yeah I’m in the –

MARC: Then, Joe Pannone takes the bait.

TAPE PANNONE: Well I don’t want them to see you with me, damn it.

MARC: Instead, Pannone says he’ll stop by Tony’s air conditioning business in the morning, where they can have a private chat. For FBI agent Aiken, that means it’s time to upgrade the operation from phone tapping…to hidden cameras.

AIKEN: Tony had a basement in his business and it was the perfect place to make movies. And we wired it for sound and video. It was probably wired better than what you have here. It was certainly more discrete.

TAPE AIKEN: Tony, the recorder’s on right now.

TAPE FREITAS: Yeah.

MARC: The video is grainy and black and white.  It shows a small basement office, with just a desk and a few chairs. Tony and Agent Aiken are preparing to make their first movie…starring Joe Pannone.

TAPE AIKEN: And what we’re doing is, we just want to say that today is Tuesday, May the 26th, and we’re waiting for a meeting between Anthony Freitas and Joe Pannone.

TAPE FREITAS: Ok, good enough.

MARC: Then Agent Aiken walks out of frame.

AIKEN: There was a closet  that I would go in and I could watch the conversation on video and I could hear it.

TAPE FREITAS:  Have a seat. And uh..

TAPE PANNONE:  Well, see with your property, what I am going to try to do. Tony…I’m going to tell you what I am going to try to do.

MARC: Joe Pannone steps into frame. He looks like an old Italian grandpa. And right away, he starts teaching Tony how to bilk the system:

TAPE PANNONE: When you are having trouble with tax bills or something, call me.

TAPE FREITAS: Oh alright. Whatever. Hey Joe, Whatever you say.

TAPE PANNONE: I’ll help you all I can.

TAPE FREITAS: Oh, I’m learning. You my boss now. I mean you teaching me. You my teacher. You know what I…teaching me. You’re my teacher…remember you told me “bullshit walks, money talks,” Hey, I got a good teacher. I’m learning from you.

MARC: Like the wiseguys on Federal Hill, corrupt city officials speak in code. They never say ‘bribe…’ or ask for cash directly.  Instead, they dance around it.  In this recording, Joe Pannone tells Tony that he can help him with his real estate taxes, if you know what I mean.

TAPE PANNONE:  Cause you know I can take care of that. Don’t ever strap yourself to pay a fucking bill.  You know what I mean?  Pannone will take care of this one.  You know what I’m trying to say?

MARC: Tony knows what Joe Pannone’s trying to say.  So, he offers him a deposit…

TAPE FREITAS: I want to give you a deposit, because I don’t know how much you’re going to take care of me for that property over there, ok. $500 bucks alright for now?

TAPE PANNONE: Yeah, yeah.

MARC: Now, Tony deliberately counts out five one hundred dollar bills…right in front of the camera.

TAPE FREITAS: One, two, three, four, five.

MARC: And Pannone puts the $500 in his pocket. The whole thing had gone off without a hitch. And Tony Freitas wanted his luck to continue.

FREITAS: My first day I wore the wire, I did wear certain underwear and everything went fine. And then from that day on I kept that same underwear handy. It was my lucky underwear, ok.

AIKEN: I seem to remember that he had some lucky underwear. Yeah, I don’t want to get into those details with him.

TAPE AIKEN: Yeah it’s on. Today’s date is July 30, 1998, I’m special agent Dennis Aiken here with Anthony Freitas. We’re going to video and audio record a meeting with Joe Pannone…

MARC: Tony started to meet more and more frequently with Joe Pannone.

TAPE FREITAS: Come in, come in.

TAPE Pannone: Providence Police. Ha ha.

TAPE FREITAS: How are you, Uncle joe.

FREITAS: I started calling him Uncle Joe. He felt comfortable.

TAPE FREITAS: Are you comfortable down here?

TAPE PANNONE: Oh yeah. I’m trying to let you understand, these things are confidential, between me and you. I trust you and I trust me, you know what I mean?

AIKEN: Tony, he was a good talker. He would look you in the eye when he talked to you and most importantly he was a very good bullshitter. Ok? And I needed a good bullshitter.

TAPE FREITAS: This one’s for you, Uncle Joe.

TAPE PANNONE: Ok, alright.

TAPE FREITAS: One, two, three. four, five.

TAPE PANNONE: You don’t have to, you know.

TAPE FREITAS: Oh no I want to take care of my friends. You’ve been good to me, you’ve been good to me.

AIKEN: Pannone wanted cash. So we paid him cash and we paid him more than once.

Some people said, well why don’t you arrest Pannone. No no no…

MARC: Agent Aiken was hoping that…with all those payoffs…Uncle Joe would lead them to the mayor.

AIKEN: Joe would start talking about Buddy and how he liked the money.

TAPE PANNONE:  He likes where the money is.

TAPE FREITAS:  Uh-huh.

TAPE PANNONE:  If you ain’t go no money, he don’t want to bother with you.

TAPE FREITAS:  I see.

TAPE PANNONE:  Capische?

TAPE FREITAS:  Yea, you see I am new to this stuff.

TAPE PANNONE:  Yea see you uh, you hand him an envelope with $500 and say use this for your campaign.  You know what I mean.   That’s the way you do things.  That’s the way the game is played. Money.

TAPE FREITAS:  Campaign, for the campaign, I see.

TAPE PANNONE:  Money.

TAPE FREITAS:  I see. Does that money ever make it to the Mayor’s campaign.

TAPE PANNONE: Well I don’t know where the hell it goes.

AIKEN: I thought I was in heaven.

PRODUCER: How was your relationship with Tony evolving, like, were you becoming friends?

AIKEN: Oh yeah we were friends. There’s no doubt about it. I’m living with the guy basically. I’m talking to him every day. I’m seeing him every day, seven days a week, trying to hold him together. He had a very very difficult job. He was going undercover with no training and no experience. He was under a tremendous amount of pressure.

MARC: And the pressure was about to get even worse. They couldn’t depend on Uncle Joe alone to take them to the mayor. They needed to open another front in the investigation.  Agent Aiken had heard that another tax board member was laundering cash for bribes. So Tony got Uncle Joe to make an introduction.

FREITAS: Then he introduces me to what I call Cousin David Ead. David Ead was another story. He was scary. He was an ex-police officer.

MARC: David Ead owned a vending machine company. And, he ran a money laundering scheme. Here’s how it worked: if you needed cash, say to pay a bribe, you could write a check to Ead’s company. Then Ead would take a small cut and give you the cash back. So…Ead became Agent Aiken’s second target.

TAPE AIKEN: Today’s date is January 15, 1999. This is a Citizen’s Bank check number 607658791-1 the amount of $5,850, that Anthony Freitas is going to provide to Dave Ead. Right?

TAPE FREITAS: Yep. Dave Ead.

MARC: In the video, Tony walks into Ead’s shop.  He’s wired, and he has a camera hidden in his briefcase. You can see Tony weaving through a maze of soda machines. He comes upon Ead sitting behind his desk in the back office.

AIKEN: I called David Jabba the hut…he looked and acted like and talked like Jabba the Hut.

MARC: Like Uncle Joe, Ead takes Tony under his wing, schooling him on how to… not… talk about bribes:

TAPE DAVID EAD:  Any time you talk to me on the telephone don’t mention anything about a check.   Say you’ll be up with that thing.  This thing and that thing.  Things mean money. We understand that. Because you never know who’s fucking listening to these phones today. You always want to stay ahead of the game. I’m just giving you some concrete advice you know.

TAPE FREITAS: Joe has told me some but you know something –

TAPE EAD: When I talk to Joe I say I got the pizza here it just came. He knows what I’m talking about

TAPE FREITAS: Yeah.

TAPE EAD: Nothing surprises me today…

MARC: Ead puts out his hand. And Tony hands over the cashier’s check.

TAPE EAD: Oh you got a cashier’s check. That’s better.

TAPE FREITAS: This is better?

TAPE EAD: Sure. Cashier’s check.

MARC: A few days later, Ead shows up at Tony’s office and gives him four thousand dollars in laundered cash…

TAPE FREITAS: Hey, hey there he is.

TAPE EAD: How you feeling.

TAPE FREITAS: Have a seat. This is what, the $4000.

TAPE EAD: Why don’t you put it in your drawer.

MARC: Now, Agent Aiken and Tony Freitas had captured two members of the tax board on video taking bribes and laundering cash. But they were still far from the mayor’s office.

They needed to move up the food chain. And one day, Uncle Joe offered an opportunity to do just that.

TAPE FREITAS: Who’s making these decisions… the mayor?

TAPE PANNONE: The Mayor…  Why don’t you make an appointment to sit down with him.

TAPE FREITAS: Yeah but Joe, if anybody knows him, it’s you…

TAPE PANNONE:  I’m gonna set up an appointment with Frank Corrente.  That way you go face to face with him. You understand?

TAPE FREITAS: Frank sets me up with the mayor…  or you do that?

TAPE PANNONE: He does that.  You gotta knock on his door first before you get to the other one…

MARC: Frank Corrente.  Buddy Cianci’s director of administration. Number two in charge at City Hall.

AIKEN: Joe was talking about how Frank was taking money.

FREITAS: You have Buddy, and Buddy had Frank Corrente. Frank Corrente was the bagman to take the money and give it to Buddy.

TAPE PANNONE:  Corrente’s the in between.

TAPE FREITAS:  Joe.

TAPE PANNONE:  Just like I’m the in between man.  You know what I mean?

TAPE FREITAS:  And that money goes down to who from Corrente?

TAPE PANNONE:  The fucking mayor, the mayor, it goes to the mayor.

TAPE PANNONE: I’m trying to educate you. Frank’s the front man.

TAPE FREITAS: So in other words he keeps Frank and you between him as a buffer zone. But of course, that money gets to him finally.

TAPE FREITAS: So Frank gives it to him, obviously.

TAPE JOE: Of course, of course. Yeah. That’s the way the game’s played.

MARC: Frank Corrente. He would be target number three. And just maybe, he’d be the one to lead Dennis Aiken to Buddy Cianci. That’s coming up… after the break.

[BREAK]

MARC: Welcome back. Before the break, FBI Agent Dennis Aiken and local businessman Tony Freitas had teamed up in an undercover operation. Their first target was a local tax official, “Uncle” Joe Pannone, then came a money launderer “Cousin” David Ead… And now, they were setting their sights on the mayor’s second in command, the director of administration. Frank Corrente.

AIKEN: We had to come up with some scheme to get to Frank. The scheme to get to Frank was, we wanted to rent some property to the school department. Tony had tried that before and it didn’t work and Tony was gonna go to Frank to get his help.

MARC: With an introduction from Uncle Joe, Tony went to City Hall to meet Frank:

TAPE FREITAS: Good morning…good to see you again. Joe Pannone set up this appointment regarding my situation over there.

FREITAS: Frank was very cautious. He was talking to me and touching me to see if I had a wire.

TAPE FREITAS: …and I was the low bidder for the school department, I don’t know what happened but they went right over me.

MARC: In the video, Frank brushes Tony off, saying there’s nothing he can do to help.

TAPE FRANK CORRENTE: They’re the only people who can help you, the school board. They made the decision. Not us. We don’t even know what’s going on. We have our own problems when you try to help people.

TAPE FREITAS: Cause the perception out there is you have to come to City Hall.

TAPE CORRENTE: Bullshit. Bullshit. When it comes to the school department…

MARC: So Tony goes back to Uncle Joe and he complains that Frank blew him off.

TAPE PANNONE: Hello?

TAPE FREITAS: Good morning Joseph.

TAPE PANNONE: Good morning Tony.

TAPE FREITAS: Listen

TAPE PANNONE: What?

TAPE FREITAS: That meeting the other day…

TAPE PANNONE: Yea?

TAPE FREITAS: With Frank –

TAPE PANNONE: Yea

TAPE FREITAS: It didn’t go too good.

MARC: Uncle Joe promised to help. And a few days later, he stopped by… with some good news.

TAPE PANNONE:  You’re lucky you know me.

TAPE FREITAS:  Ah.

TAPE PANNONE:  You’re lucky you know me.

TAPE FREITAS:  How are you?

TAPE PANNONE:  Now this…I talked to Frank yesterday.  Right?

TAPE FREITAS:  Oh.  You went to see him.

TAPE PANNONE:  Sure I went to see him.

TAPE PANNONE:  I said, “You can trust Tony. Don’t worry.”  I said, “I trust him.”

TAPE FREITAS:  Yea.  Yea.  Yea.

TAPE PANNONE: I told him about the school department. I said, can’t we get him with the school department, for Christ’s sake.

MARC: Then, Tony got a visit from the school department.  Suddenly they were interested in renting his building.

So Tony called Frank to tell him the good news.

TAPE SECRETARY: Providence City Hall.

TAPE FREITAS: Hi, Mr Corrente’s office please.

TAPE CORRENTE: Tony, Frank Corrente.

TAPE FREITAS: Hey Frank how are you. Frank, I’d like to stop by quickly to see you because I think something is happening over here.

TAPE CORRENTE: Where, the rental?

TAPE FREITAS: Yeah, they came to see the place.

TAPE CORRENTE: Oh, that’s good. Alright come to see whenever you want.

TAPE FREITAS: Ok buddy. Thanks. Bye.

MARC: Time to pay Frank Corrente another visit.  And by pay, I mean… pay…

So Tony pulled up his lucky underwear, put on a wire and got ready to go to City Hall.

TAPE AIKEN: I’m Dennis Aiken here with Anthony Freitas. Here’s $1,000, ten $100 bills, for Frank Corrente. Ok so we went over what you’re gonna do when you see him.

TAPE FREITAS: Good enough.

TAPE AIKEN: And don’t forget to turn this on when you get over there.

MARC: Tony had his tiny camera in his briefcase…and an envelope full of cash in his pocket.

TAPE FREITAS: Coming up these stairs, it’s murder.

TAPE CORRENTE: Why? A young guy like you for Christ’s sakes should be able to run them up.

TAPE FREITAS:  Listen. I showed them the lease. They are very happy.

MARC: In the video, Tony sets the briefcase on a chair. The camera points at Frank, sitting behind a desk. The phone rings constantly, and Frank picks up every call.  When Tony gets his attention, he tells Frank that the school department is ready to lease his property — all they need is final approval.

TAPE FREITAS: They said they clear everything with downtown, however, they have to send a letter downtown uh, for like this is what it is, final approval…

TAPE CORRENTE:  Yeah, well.  They, they …

TAPE FREITAS:  So I appreciate whatever you can do.

TAPE CORRENTE:  Oh,…don’t worry.  It’s going to come to — they gotta go to the school department.

MARC: Frank tells Tony that he knows just who to call to seal the deal, a guy named Mark Dunham, who was head of finance for the Providence school department.

TAPE CORRENTE:  I’m going to talk to Mark Dunham.  He’s my key.  You know Mark Dunham?

TAPE FREITAS:  Dunham.  Yea.  Alright.

TAPE CORRENTE:  He handles all that shit.

TAPE FRITAS:  He’s your guy.

TAPE CORRENTE:  He handles all that shit.

FREITAS:  Ok.

TAPE CORRENTE:  I’ll just tell him what I got to do.

TAPE FREITAS:  Well …

TAPE CORRENTE:  You understand me?

TAPE FREITAS:  Well, listen. I really appreciate.

MARC: Tony holds out the envelope filled with cash.  And Frank…looks surprised.

TAPE CORRENTE:  What the fuck are you doing?  It’s not necessary.  Do you hear me?

TAPE FREITAS:  Frank, I appreciate.

TAPE CORRENTE:  Do you hear me?

MARC: But…Tony had been prepped that this would be Frank’s reaction:

FREITAS: Joe Pannone, tell me, “When you see Frank he’s going to say ‘no no no it’s not necessary.’ So when he says ‘no no no’ that means ‘Yes yes give it to me. So he’s never going to say ‘Ok let me have that’ he’s going to always say ‘no no that’s not necessary.’ So when he does that, it’s safe to give him the money.”

MARC: So Tony continues undeterred. While Frank takes another phone call, Tony opens the envelope, shows Frank the money inside, then places it on the desk. Still on the phone, Frank casually picks up the envelope, slides open his desk drawer, and drops it inside.

Frank finally hangs up. And without saying a word to Tony, he buzzes his secretary and asks for Mark Dunham, the head of finance for the school department

[Buzzing sounds]

TAPE SECRETARY: Yeah Frank..

TAPE CORRENTE:  Give me Mark Dunham.

TAPE SECRETARY:  OK.

[Phone rings]

TAPE CORRENTE: Yes. Hello. Mark.  How are you? It’s my understanding that Marriott is interested in that Carol Bakery.

MARC: Tony’s property is known as the “Carol Bakery.”  And “Marriott” is the company that handles leases for the school department.  Frank is telling Mark Dunham that it’s his understanding that Marriott is interested in leasing Tony’s property.

TAPE CORRENTE: OK.  Yea.  Do you have any objection? That’s a good idea. Yea. OK. Very good. Thank You. Bye.

TAPE FREITAS:  What did he say?

TAPE CORRENTE:  See.  I’m smart.  I know how to talk.  I said, “Do you got any objections?”  He says, “No.”  I said, “Well, I think it’s a good idea.”

TAPE FREITAS:  Uncle Frank.

TAPE CORRENTE:  See, I don’t say do it.  I just have to say it’s a good idea.

MARC: Did you catch that?  When Frank says something’s a good idea…he means, do it.

TAPE CORRENTE:  Alright.

TAPE FREITAS:  That’s what I wanted.  Talk to you later.  I’ll see you Frank.

MARC: Tony’s lucky underwear was now 3 for 3. Three city officials on tape, taking bribes and laundering money. But Frank Corrente hadn’t done what they’d hoped  He hadn’t led them to the mayor. So they found another way.

Remember David Ead, the guy who owned the vending machine company? He was high up in the local Democratic party and he’d been close with Buddy for a long time…

TAPE EAD: I’ve been around 25 years. Him and I have been buddies for 25 years.

TAPE FREITAS:  Right, right, right…

TAPE EAD:I go direct. Any time I have to do business with the mayor I go direct to the mayor.  FREITAS: So you may be one of the handfuls.

TAPE EAD: If I can’t go to the mayor, who can I go to?

TAPE FREITAS: He was the only go who could walk into the mayor’s office. He would go in, talk to the mayor, and the mayor trusted him.

MARC: So Agent Aiken had to come up with yet another scheme.

AIKEN: You have to come up with reasons to talk to these people. You just can’t go and pay — here’s a bribe, can I call you in the future. It looks suspicious so my biggest challenge was to come up with things to pay for. I’d heard that you had to pay bribes in order to buy property from the city. So we literally drove around and found a piece of property that we said we would try to buy because Ead was saying that he could pay the mayor to do that. So we told Dave we wanted to buy the property.  Dave thought it was a great idea.

TAPE FREITAS: These two lots are behind the Calenda…

TAPE EAD: Right here. These two. Lot 429 and lot 450.

TAPE FREITAS: Yeah those two are behind the Calenda property…and those are the two —

TAPE EAD: The city owns.

TAPE FREITAS: The city owns it. I mean it’s worth $2000 —

TAPE EAD: You want to buy this from the city?

TAPE FREITAS: Yeah

TAPE EAD: How much you want to pay for the land?

TAPE FREITAS: Whatever they say I should pay.

TAPE EAD: Close the door. How much do you want to give for the man downtown.

MARC: “How much do you want to give for the man downtown.” Ead is asking Tony, how much money he wants to give to Buddy Cianci.

TAPE FREITAS: You tell me, $3000, $2000.

TAPE EAD: I have no idea.

TAPE FREITAS: How much should I give him, you tell me, I never did this before.

TAPE EAD: Give him $5000 and you give him $1000 a piece for the lots

TAPE FREITAS: OK.

TAPE EAD: I’ll go down and see him, tell him…

AIKEN: We thought this was finally our in. That he was gonna talk to the mayor and he says, “I’m gonna go have a meeting with the mayor and we’re going to discuss how to do this, and I’m going to tell the mayor you’re gonna give him some money.” We did a surveillance and found out he did have the meeting. We watched the people that he claimed the mayor called to the meeting, go into the meeting.

MARC: A few days later, Ead called Tony on the phone and told him about that meeting. Ead said that the city lots Tony wanted were priced at $10,000 each. But, as always, Buddy was willing to make a deal.

TAPE EAD: “This is the deal.” He said, “Alright I’ll tell you what, tell him I’ll give him the lots for $1,000 a piece, no problem ok.

MARC: And what was Buddy’s end of the deal?

TAPE EAD: But he don’t want $5,000. He wants $10.

MARC: “He wants ten.”  Ead is saying that Buddy wants a $10,000 bribe to lower the price of the lots to $1000 each. This way, Tony would pay just $12,000, rather than $20,000.  Everybody wins.

TAPE EAD: When I bring the big ten down to him. “This is from Anthony Freitas.” The doors will be open for you like you can’t believe.

TAPE FREITAS: I don’t mind giving the mayor ten grand, ok.

TAPE FREITAS: I don’t mind paying the bribe or whatever you call this shit, I’m not used to this.

TAPE EAD: I don’t want to mention it no more. Don’t mention it.

TAPE FREITAS: Whatever.

TAPE EAD: We understand.

AIKEN: And we were gonna give the money to take it downtown and the goal was to follow David with the money and hopefully have a microphone and camera in the mayor’s office when it took place. And we were ready to go, we were in. This was gonna work.

MARC: But then…

AIKEN: David threw us a curveball.

MARC: A few days later, David Ead visited Tony at his business.

TAPE EAD: I can’t receive any cash, legally, so I’m gonna return your money…

TAPE FREITAS: Dave.

TAPE EAD: Listen to me.

AIKEN: David Ead got down there and started saying how everything he had told Tony in the past was a lie.

TAPE EAD: So I’m gonna return your $1200 to you. And if you want to hire me and pay me a check and take out the wages, that’s ok…

AIKEN: He didn’t have the right to take the money but I’m going to give that money back. Just crazy talk. Like, he was obviously afraid.

MARC: Even worse, Ead denies he has any relationship with the mayor.

TAPE EAD: Number two, there’s no big guy involved here. I was testing you out. Ok. There’s no big guy…

AIKEN: I just watched my case crumble in front of my eyes.

TAPE EAD: …Ok, there’s no big guy involved. You’re on your own to do this thing right just follow the rules and you’re all set. I was just testing you out. I wanted to see what type of person you are I didn’t know you, you know, I wanted to see if that got around. You know, that’s all. You don’t have to worry, I was just testing you out on the big guy. There’s no big guy. There’s no ten grand to give nobody. So you don’t have to worry about that, you can save that.

TAPE FREITAS: You know this whole thing has gotten… I’m ticked off, pissed off, whatever you want to call it.  I’m going to take a week off to relax.

AIKEN: Tony talked to him long enough to where he said, “Follow me to my car.”

TAPE EAD: Walk me to my car, I want to tell you something.

AIKEN: I didn’t know what David was gonna do to Tony. I was concerned about Tony going up there and I knew he wasn’t gonna get in the car with him cause I told Tony, “If you get in the car, I can’t help you.” And luckily i had another recording device sitting on the table it was disguised as a pager. And Tony picked up that pager and put it on his belt. And he walked up to the car with David.

TAPE FREITAS: …you got my word on that.

AIKEN: And they were standing outside the car and David says, “I got a call from a woman.”

TAPE EAD: I got a call from a woman at night at my office. She said, “Watch out for Anthony Freitas, he’s working for the FBI.”

AIKEN: Now there’s three people in that building. Me, Tony and David Ead, and I knew David Ead was known to carry a gun every once and awhile.

TAPE FREITAS: I saw his hand grabbing the gun.

MARC: Tony has to think fast. Say something to defuse the situation…

TAPE FREITAS: And I see the gun, I says, “Put that thing away…don’t start with this shit with me.” I said, “I don’t work for the FBI. I work for the CIA.”

TAPE FREITAS: Say Anthony works for the CIA…that was a good one…

MARC: And this strange joke… it seems to work.

AIKEN: And it totally calmed David down. And he says, “I knew it wasn’t true.” This type of thing.

TAPE FREITAS: That was a good one… I’ll see you.

MARC: Who do you think blew it for you?

AIKEN: I was concerned about an agent in our office. I have my suspicions. And that’s when we decided to bring,  we had to bring the case down. It got too dangerous for Tony. And the odds of us getting to the mayor were zero. So we went, we put together a raid team.

MARC: On April 28, 1999, the FBI made their move. They arrested Joe Pannone and David Ead. And dozens of agents stormed into City Hall.

ARCHIVAL: A scandal erupted at City Hall in Providence. 76-year-old Joseph Pannone and 57-year-old David Ead are charged with four counts of conspiracy to commit money laundering.

MARC: Eventually, they indicted Frank Corrente too. But they still didn’t have the mayor … not yet. They were hoping to turn up evidence against him in the raid, and to get people like Pannone, Ead and Corrente to flip. For now, Agent Aiken had to settle for delivering the bad news to Buddy…in person.

AIKEN: I went to his house and I knocked on his door over on Power St. And he comes to the door and he clearly wasn’t expecting me. He says, “Oh Agent Aiken.” I said, “Buddy, how ya doin? Can we talk?” He says, “Oh you still in town.” I says, “You know I’m still in town.” So I went in and he said, “What’s going on?” I said, “Well right now I’ve got 50 agents swarming into City Hall.” And he looked truly shocked. And he said, “Well what’s that about?” I said, “Well we’re investigating corruption.” He says, “Well who’s involved?” I said, “I’d like to talk to you about that.”

And I said, I’m sure you’re curious as to what’s going on, so if you’re curious maybe you want to talk to me.” I was just torturing the guy, right. He wanted to talk to me so bad he couldn’t stand it. He says, “Well maybe I’ll sit down with you. But…”

Well, I’ve decided not to talk to you because, I might say something to you or tell you something that’s contradicted later by somebody else.

MARC: And what did Buddy have to say about all this?  Here he is talking to the co-author of his autobiography.

BUDDY: Dennis Aiken, he’s a bullshitter. He’s a guy looking to make a name for himself. Look was there corruption in the city? Absolutely. Was there corruption in Boston, yeah, corruption in Philadelphia, name a city there isn’t corruption in. But was I involved in it, to this day to my grave, absolutely not.

 

ZAC: Next time on Crimetown: Buddy Cianci finally goes on trial.

BUDDY: I didn’t do this stuff. I’m not guilty of this stuff and I’m gonna fight it as long as I can, as hard as I can.

 

MARC: Crimetown is me, Marc Smerling, and Zac Stuart-Pontier.

We are produced by Austin Mitchell, Drew Nelles, Kaitlin Roberts, and Mike Plunkett. Our associate producer is Laura Sim.

We’re edited by Alex Blumberg and Caitlin Kenney.

Fact-checking by Mick Rouse.

This episode of Crimetown was mixed, sound designed, and scored by Kenny Kusiak and Matthew Boll.

Additional mixing by Enoch Kim and Martin Peralta.

Our title track is “Run To Your Mama” by Goat.

Original music by John Kusiak, Kenny Kusiak, Jon Ivans, Edwin and Bienart.

Our ad music is by Matthew Boll.

Our digital editor is Rob Szypko. Our design director is Ale Lariu.

Alex Blumberg is The Podfather… I seem to remember he has some lucky underwear… but I don’t want to get into those details with him.

This season of Crimetown is dedicated to the memory of Bill Malinowski.

Thanks to the the Providence Journal, Julia Heymans, Emily Wiedemann, Annie Muire, Lisa Newby, Kate Wells, Mary Murphy, Dan Barry, Mike Stanton — check out his book, The Prince of Providence — and everybody who shared their stories with us.

For a full list of credits, bonus content, and to sign up for our new newsletter, visit our website at crimetownshow.com.

You can find us on Twitter @crimetown, and on Facebook and Instagram @crimetownshow.

And if you’re enjoying Crimetown, leave us a rating and review on Apple Podcasts. It really helps others find out about the show. Thanks.

And to become a Gimlet member, sign up at gimletmedia.com/join. If you sign up for a full year you can get a great Crimetown T-Shirt.

Providence is a special place, and we’re honored to tell a part of its story.

[CODA]

FREITAS: So that’s 100 buddy, 2, 300.

PANNONE: Put in my pocket so nobody can see it.

FREITAS: Nobody will see it.

PANNONE: Alright okay.

FREITAS: Okay. Do you want to lick it? Lick it?

PANNONE: It’s alright. I don’t want nobody to see it. It ain’t for him, no nosy people, you know.

Hosted by

Marc Smerling

Marc Smerling is a film producer, screenwriter and cinematographer. He was nominated for an Oscar for "Capturing the Friedmans" in 2003, and produced "Catfish," the movie and "CatfishTV," the series, now in its sixth season. He wrote the movie "All Good Things" starring Ryan Gosling and Kirsten Dunst, and produced, co-wrote and shot the Emmy and Peabody Award-winning HBO documentary series, "The Jinx: The Life and Deaths Of Robert Durst."

Hosted by

Zac Stuart-Pontier

Zac Stuart-Pontier is the co-host of Crimetown. He is a journalist and filmmaker. He was the editor, co-producer and writer of the Emmy and Peabody Award winning HBO documentary series "The Jinx- The Life & Deaths of Robert Durst." He also edited the feature films "Martha Marcy May Marlene," "Catfish" (the documentary) and "Bleed for This."

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