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Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Here's an example of when you need a bad actor law

By TIM FAULKNER/ecoRI News staff

Sun Pacific Holding Corp – A diversified publicly traded holding ...The developer of a controversial medical-waste processing facility proposed for West Warwick, R.I., has been implicated in an alleged price-gouging scheme involving the sale of COVID-19 personal protective equipment. 

A May 26 New York Times article A Car Salesman, a Macedonian Ex-Minister and a $45 Million Mask Scheme implicates Nicholas B. Campanella in a con to help a business associate falsely portray himself as an approved seller of 3M products so he could sell millions of the company’s N95 respirators for a huge profit. 

The article states that Campanella provided fellow New Jersey resident Ronald J. Romano with potential buyers of the masks.

Romano has been charged with wire fraud, wire fraud conspiracy, and conspiring to violate the Defense Production Act. Romano allegedly posed as an authorized 3M dealer so he could sell 7 million masks to New York City at four times the list price.

Campanella wasn’t charged in the $45 million scheme. He told The New York Times that he only introduced Romano to a hedge fund that had masks.

“It was a lot of innuendo and accusations for something that never actually happened or transpired,” Campanella told the newspaper.

The deal was never consummated, but the article makes light of the unusual cast of characters involved with the scheme. Romano is a used-car salesman. A pharmacist and the former minister of foreign investment for Macedonia are also implicated. 

The Times described Campanella as “a New Jersey businessman who is the chief executive officer of Sun Pacific Holdings Corp., the company whose subsidiary plans to convert medical waste to energy.”

West Warwick Town Council vice president John D’Amico said The New York Times article was concerning, and Campanella’s project warranted greater scrutiny if anything illegal occured.

D’Amico planned to release an informational Q&A about the proposal this week but decided to hold off until he receives guidance from town officials regarding Campanella’s fraud implication.

The council member also responded to public and online accusations that the town is trying to fast-track the medical-waste project, saying that a March 17 license hearing, which was postponed by the pandemic, was posted to the agenda by mistake.

“There’s a lot to this process that still has to unfold,” D'Amico said. “No one is trying to push this through.”

D'Amico lives near the proposed site at 1600 Division Road and is concerned about abutters, including a day-care center. “Safety is primary, and steps need to be followed,” he said.
Town council president David Gosselin Jr. said the proposal won’t be discussed publicly until in-person meetings resume.

“We want to be able to listen and let everyone express their concerns and attend the meeting,” he said.

The project, proposed for an office/industrial building on the border of East Greenwich and Warwick, has garnered public opposition over the health and safety of the technology, known as pyrolysis, as well as generators that will be housed in shipping containers at the proposed facility.

Campanella owns patents for solar panels but has no apparent experience in waste management. Pyrolysis is used by a handful of waste-management operations in South Africa and the United Kingdom, but none that exclusively process medical waste.

Campanella was supposed to answer questions about the proposal at the May 26 East Greenwich Town Council online meeting but canceled at the last minute without explanation.

Campanella, who has a home in West Warwick, didn’t respond to a request for comment.

East Greenwich Town Council members were unaware of the fraud case prior to the meeting, but were nonetheless dismayed that Campanella canceled on short notice and without explanation. 

Council member Renu Englehart, who lives near the project site, is worried about a relatively untested technology running 24 hours a day as it processes waste from across the Northeast.

Rep. Justine Caldwell, D-East Greenwich, joined the virtual meeting and noted the online petition that has garnered about 1,000 signatures in opposition to the project, some of whom, she said, tuned in to hear from Campanella at the May 26 meeting.

“I am really disappointed. It just doesn't inspire confidence that Mr. Campanella wouldn’t even come here tonight to give a presentation and hear questions,” Caldwell said.