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Tuesday, August 6, 2013

More juicy detail about the criminal past of the Copar Quarries’ CEO

Meet the new neighbors: Part 4.5
By Will Collette

As Progressive Charlestown readers know, one of our local quarrying operations, the Connecticut-based Copar Quarries, has been playing hell with the Charlestown and Westerly neighbors of its Bradford operation.

They also acquired a second site, this time in Charlestown on Route 91 last March. Copar’s conduct has been pretty outrageous – they have violated federal, state and local laws with impunity – and they have made the town government of Westerly look corrupt and the town government of Charlestown look like a bunch of uncaring jerks.

I've been running this series with detailed background information on Copar and its top executives as a way of explaining why Copar does what it does. This article uses newly uncovered information to expand on coverage presented in Part Four of this series.

As my series showed, Copar’s top executives have all had lots of legal problems, including very colorful criminal rap sheets.

I found six tax liens, eight bankruptcies and 29 civil judgments against Copar and its owner Sam Cocopard. That’s in Part Five.
It takes brass cojones to steal from the Vinagro family

In Part Four, I documented that extensive criminal past of CEO Sam Cocopard (a.k.a. Cocopardi), showing how he has been busted for around 30 financial crimes and has been convicted of most. 

His latest conviction was last January when he was found guilty of stealing $20,000 from Rhode Island’s trash tycoon Joe Vinagro (Patriot Hauling). Cocopard was sentenced to a year and a half, suspended, and ordered to pay restitution.

One of the members of the Copar resistance actually spoke to Joe Vinagro recently to find out if Cocopard has paid him back. Vinagro said Cocopard has not paid him back.

Even though I did my best to find as much as I could about Cocopard, and found a lot, including getting copies of original investigation reports from two Connecticut jurisdictions where Cocopard was busted, I didn't get it all.

Another member of the Copar resistance found several archived copies of the Hartford Courant (not available on-line, which is why I missed them), that went into amazing detail on Cocopard’s 1994 arrest and conviction. Another reason I missed it was that, at that time, Cocopard was still going by the name “Cocopardi.” Anyway, here’s what the Hartford Courant reported on that case.

On November 16, 1994, Matthew Kauffman wrote “Judge Outraged by Plea Bargain” in the Courant. Kauffman described a tawdry deal that allowed Sam Cocopardi to avoid going to jail in return for restitution to his victims. That’s not an unusual deal, although this one came with a twist that really pissed off Connecticut state court Judge Thomas P. Miano.

The deal was that the restitution would come not from Cocopardi, but from his mother-in-law, and only if Sam received no jail time.

Cocopardi had stolen $19,000 from Claudette Michaud, one of his employees, and another $25,000 from two businesses.

Miano said he was only approving the deal out of concern for Cocopardi’s victims. He said, This situation…is a damn outrage and I feel remiss in my own duties to a degree because he's not being treated like everyone else… But if I don't go along with this, the people you ripped off are not going to get paid…I can't help but think as I sit here that I'm being extorted… I think you belong in jail.”

Kauffman followed up with another Courant story on December 10, 1994 with the great title, “Repayment Offer Keeps Con Man Out Of Prison.”

In this article, Kauffman reported the terms of Cocopardi’s final sentence: a 10-year suspended sentence and, as Judge Miano put it “yet another probation.”

Cocopardi’s sentence also included, Kauffman reported, “the condition that he disclose his criminal record any time he asks to borrow money.” Judge Miano ordered the drafting of a letter with those details which Cocopardi would have to show and have signed by any potential lender, saying I want the people who come into contact with you to know their money is at risk.”

Cocopardi brought cashier’s checks totaling more than $40,000 to his sentencing. The money was borrowed from his mother-in-law.

Judge Miano decided against imposing any community service time on Cocopardi, saying, To be perfectly honest, I didn't want him being involved in charities. I don't trust him.”

Judge Miano expressed concern that Cocopardi was ripping off his 74-year old mother-in-law, Aida Volpinari who was living in Florida.

But when Kauffman contacted Mrs. Volpinari, she said she thought Cocopardi was a pleasant fellow: “He doesn't drink. He doesn't smoke. He doesn't take drugs. He's a very charming person. He's nice to talk to. He's a very, very nice man to talk to. He's got a very charming way about him. Maybe that's how he got in all this trouble to begin with.”

But, she added, “I didn't do it for Mr. Cocopardi. I did it for my daughter.” She told Kauffman that she trusted her son-in-law to repay her. I found no public record to indicate whether he did or didn’t. Social Security death records show Mrs. Volpinari died on July 25, 2003 at age 83.

Click here for all of Progressive Charlestown’s coverage of the Copar Quarry.
Charlestown Town Administrator Mark Stankiewicz told
Charlestown neighbor of Copar quarry
that the company
was too tough to Charlestown won't even try.

Click here for Part One on Phil Armetta, one of Connecticut’s top trash guys and Copar’s money man.

Click here for Part Two on Randy Roberge, Copar’s “resident agent” who doesn’t actually reside here, a guy who was deemed unfit by the state of Connecticut to be a mortgage banker, so now he’s Copar’s Chief Financial Officer.

Click here for Part Three on Daniel Thibodeau, Copar’s company Controller, a guy who was prosecuted by the state of Connecticut for defrauding his clients.

Click here for Part Four, the original piece on Copar CEO Sam Cocopard, with detail on his two dozen busts for financial crimes, including his most recent guilty verdict last January for stealing $20,000 from Joe Vinagro, RI’s trash titan.

Click here for Part Five which details Copar’s incredible Connecticut record – tax liens and being on the losing end of a raft of civil judgments.

After you read all this, ask yourself why the town of Charlestown allowed this company to get a business license, especially after they operated here in town for three months without a license. Then ask yourself why it is that Charlestown has decided to take a dive and won't even fight Copar. I guess Whalerock tired them all out.