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Monday, March 31, 2014

FBI and RI State Police conduct overnight raid of Charlestown homes and offices

Search warrants served but reason for action not revealed
By Will Collette

Acting on search warrants issued by the federal District Court in Providence, agents from the Providence field office of the FBI, supported by State Police officers and accompanied by agents of the IRS anti-corruption unit, entered and searched Charlestown Town Hall, the homes of prominent town leaders and the heretofore secret clubhouse of the Charlestown Citizens Alliance (CCA).

TV film crews were also on hand to record the scene of agents hauling off computers and boxes presumably containing documents seized as potential evidence.

US Attorney Peter Neronha would not comment on the specific reasons for the raid other than to recite the general brief of his office to pursue crime and corruption wherever it might be found. He would not confirm or deny whether the raid was related to accusations that the ruling CCA Party was trading town resources and favors for campaign contributions, a practice commonly called “pay to play.”

Among the sites searched by the agents was the home of Town Council Boss Tom Gentz. Gentz was seen visibly upset after agents told him to get out of the house while they conducted their search. He was seen garbed in his full-length bunny pajamas as he watched agents carrying boxes of documents. Agents also confiscated Gentz’s three lovingly restored antique Porsches.

Slattery remained defiant
There was a similar scene at the home of Councilor Dan Slattery. Slattery, garbed in combat camouflage PJs, had to be physically restrained when agents took out Slattery’s collection of files. He was heard yelling, “those are top secret investigative files….you can’t look at them….you don’t have the clearance….they’re mine, I tell you!”

When agents hit the homes of Ill Wind RI members on Partridge and Quail, group guru Ron Areglado quickly grouped his followers into a passive resistance defense line where they lined up in front of the government vehicles.

Several had to be lifted out of the way after the Agent-in-Charge was overheard to give the order to “remove these damned anonymous abutters!” Areglado was arrested for impeding federal officers.

At Town Hall, agents used a battering ram to break down the door to execute their search warrant. After spending hours inside the building, agents emerged empty-handed and shaking their heads.

A source close to the investigation tells me that agents found that virtually no records were being kept in Town Hall. Town Administrator Mark Stankiewicz, reached by phone at his home in Stoughton, MA, said town records had been transferred into the custody of Town Solicitor Peter Ruggiero who is, by law, exempt from ever disclosing anything to anybody.
Central controller for Charlestown's
computer system found in Tax
Assessor Ken Swain's office

The agents were also stymied by the town’s computer system which is apparently being run using the Atari Operating System. Even the FBI’s best tech people couldn’t crack the system.

Throughout the long hours while agents were engaged in the raid on Town Hall, a large crowd of Narragansett Indians gathered across Route Two, yelling and cheering. One tribal leader took a bullhorn and shouted out, “See how YOU like it, paleface,” invoking memories of the 2003 State Police raid on the Narragansett smoke shop.

Agents also attempted to serve a search warrant at the home of Planning Commissar Ruth Platner and Zoning Board member Cliff Vanover, but could not find the home since construction on it has yet to be completed.

One of the targets of the raid, the long-hidden secret headquarters of the Charlestown Citizens Alliance, proved to be more than the agents bargained for.

Hidden in the brush and reeds along Mud Cove, the CCA clubhouse has its entrance in the base of a big old oak. 

That entrance apparently leads to a maze of underground tunnels. When agents cut their way through the native shrubbery and then battered down the heavy oak door, they missed a trip wire stretched just beyond the entry only inches off the ground.

When an agent tripped the wire, an alarm went off and a recorded message played at 100dB saying, “Intruder Alert. This building will self-destruct in 15 seconds.”

Agents scrambled out and found cover just as millions of indigenous termites and carpenter ants, released by the trip wire, ate through the foundation of the structure, causing it to implode (and also ate any documents that might have been stored at the site).

As the caravan of law enforcement agents loaded up and started leaving on the long trek back to Providence, CCA Town Council member George Tremblay was heard to say, “That’s an April first I’ll never forget.”