Rhode Island Radio Host to Plead Guilty to Insurance Fraud

May 25, 2011

A Rhode Island radio personality has agreed to plead guilty to taking part in an insurance fraud scheme involving a former North Providence town councilman recently sentenced on fraud and corruption charges.

Federal prosecutors say Lori Sergiacomi — known on 105 Lite Rock as Tanya Cruise — then-Councilman John Zambarano and two other men conspired to damage Sergiacomi’s home and pool and submit bogus insurance claims. The payout totaled just over $40,000.

In exchange for Sergiacomi’s admitting to charges of conspiracy and mail fraud, prosecutors will recommend a sentence toward the low end of the range suggested by federal sentencing guidelines, according to a plea agreement filed in federal court in Providence.

Sergiacomi’s attorney did not return a call seeking comment Tuesday. A call to 105 Lite Rock was also not returned, but Sergiacomi, 49, is no longer listed on the station’s roster.

The charges stem from spring 2010, when Sergiacomi’s North Providence home sustained damage during flooding that devastated much of the state, according to an indictment handed up last November. The indictment claims Sergiacomi did not have flood insurance and that Zambarano, 48, and another defendant, 61-year-old insurance adjuster Vincent DiPaolo, advised her not to file a claim with the Federal Emergency Management Agency because the agency would only offer her a loan. Moreover, they told Sergiacomi, a federal loan would not cover roof and swimming pool improvements she wanted to make, the indictment alleges.

Instead, prosecutors say, Zambarano and a fourth defendant, Robert Ricci, 49, deliberately damaged Sergiacomi’s home and pool to make it look as if the damage was due to a wind and rain storm. Ricci is a former North Providence town council president, but was not in office at the time.

The insurance fraud was discovered during an investigation into a separate pay-to-play bribery and extortion scheme orchestrated by Zambarano and two other then-town councilmen, prosecutors said. Wiretaps caught Zambarano boasting over the phone about his handiwork, according to the indictment.

“I got a good size branch (and made) a hole in the (roof) and it went through the liner,” the indictment quotes Zambarano telling DiPaolo. “Wait till you see Lori’s house. You’re gonna want me to be your demolition man all the time.”

After pleading guilty to the insurance and corruption charges, Zambarano was sentenced last week to just under 6 years in prison.

Ricci is scheduled to plead guilty on June 1. DiPaolo, whose lawyer did not return a call seeking comment Tuesday, has pleaded not guilty.

Sergiacomi faces a maximum sentence of 5 years in prison on the conspiracy charge and up to 20 years on the mail fraud charges.

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