An ex-insurance adjuster who helped a former Rhode Island radio personality file a bogus home insurance claim last year pleaded guilty on Tuesday to his role in the scheme.
In a deal with prosecutors, Vincent DiPaolo, 62, of Johnston, admitted to one count of conspiracy and four counts of mail fraud. He left the U.S. District Court in Providence without commenting.
He’s the last defendant to plead guilty in the case, which was uncovered by investigators probing a separate shakedown of developers by town officials in North Providence.
The charges stem from spring 2010, when the North Providence home of ex-radio host Lori Sergiacomi was damaged during historic flooding that devastated much of the state, federal prosecutors said.
Prosecutors say Sergiacomi – a former 105 Lite Rock host known as Tanya Cruise – did not have flood insurance. They say DiPaolo and former North Providence Councilman John Zambarano, 48, advised her not to file a claim with the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Instead, they say Sergiacomi hired DiPaolo as her public insurance adjuster, and her home was deliberately damaged to make it look like it had been struck by a storm that never happened.
Sergiacomi’s insurance claim said the fictitious storm took place on April 5, 2010 when the National Weather Service reported fair weather in the Providence area with temperatures in the 70s.
Sergiacomi’s insurance company paid her more than $40,000. 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.
Zambarano, Sergiacomi and former North Providence Town Council President Robert Ricci, 50, have already pleaded guilty to the insurance fraud scheme. Zambarano was sentenced in May to nearly six years in prison on the insurance and corruption charges. Sergiacomi and Ricci are scheduled to be sentenced on Aug. 25.
DiPaolo has agreed to pay more than $40,000 in restitution as part of his guilty plea and faces sentencing on Oct. 27. DiPaolo could get up to 85 years in prison, $1.25 million in fines and 15 years of supervised release, but prosecutors have promised to recommend a lesser sentence for him.