Prosecutors Want Jail for Rhode Island Radio Host for Insurance Fraud

By Laura Crimaldi | August 22, 2011

Federal prosecutors are arguing against a home confinement sentence for a former Rhode Island radio disc jockey who damaged her North Providence house in a $40,000 insurance fraud scheme after last year’s historic floods, saying it would amount to locking her up in the place that benefited from her scheme.

Lori Sergiacomi, 49, is asking to be spared prison time when she is sentenced next week in the fraud scheme, which prosecutors said was a conspiracy to bilk her insurance company while thousands of residents dug deep to recover from the March 2010 flooding.

Prosecutors said in court papers filed Friday that Sergiacomi should spend four months in prison, four months in community confinement and pay restitution to “promote respect for the law.”

Probation with home confinement, they said, “would, in effect, sentence the defendant to serve her term in the very house which she improved through this fraud scheme.”

In her sentencing memorandum, an attorney for Sergiacomi, who went by Tanya Cruise on WWLI-FM, portrays her as a lonely single woman who lived for her job and charity work while trying to hold onto the modest North Providence ranch house where she grew up. The sentencing guidelines allow the court to order Sergiacomi to serve eight to 12 months in prison, wrote defense attorney William P. Devereaux.

Sergiacomi “presents as a person who has, by and large, lived a very exemplary life but engaged in one serious, but limited, criminal transaction which has forever tarnished her reputation and led to a very public dismissal from her lifelong occupation,” Devereaux wrote.

“While (Sergiacomi) well understands that other people who had flood damage to their home did not participate, as she did, in a fraudulent insurance scheme, she has suffered particular public shame and is now labeled as a convicted felon.”

Authorities learned about the insurance fraud during a separate investigation into a bribery scheme involving three North Providence town councilmen.

Prosecutors say Sergiacomi, who did not have flood insurance, contacted then-Councilman John Zambarano, 48, after her recently renovated basement flooded. Devereaux wrote that Sergiacomi knew Zambarano because he was her deceased father’s “carpet guy.”

Authorities say Zambarano and ex-insurance adjuster Vincent DiPaolo, 62, of Johnston, advised her not to file a claim with the Federal Emergency Management Agency. “Feeling alone, depressed and desperate,” Devereaux wrote, 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. Devereaux said she received only $13,000 of the $40,000 claim that was paid in June of that year.

She pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy and four counts of aiding and abetting mail fraud on June 2. She and another defendant, Robert Ricci, 50, will be sentenced Aug. 25.

Sergiacomi was fired by Citadel Broadcasting, which Devereaux noted has “hired and retained radio personalities with felony convictions and/or talk show hosts that have been reported to have acted in an inappropriate manner.” Ex-Providence Mayor Vincent “Buddy” Cianci Jr., who is a convicted federal felon, has a talk show on WPRO-AM, which also owned by Citadel.

Devereaux also noted Sergiacomi’s home still needs repairs for the damage done by the flooding and Zambarano.

Zambarano was sentenced in May to nearly six years in prison on the insurance and corruption charges. DiPaolo pleaded guilty earlier this month to one count of conspiracy and four counts of mail fraud. He will be sentenced on Oct. 27.

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