Attorney General Peter Neronha announced that Louis Aponte (age 56), of Providence, pleaded nolo contendere today to a felony count of embezzlement. Superior Court Justice Jeffrey Lanphear sentenced Aponte to a 4.5-year suspended sentence with 4.5 years of probation. As part of his plea, Aponte is required to resign from his position on the Providence City Council.
“Today’s felony conviction of former Councilman Luis Aponte for stealing from his campaign funds once again underscores the importance of holding public officials accountable when they break the law and erode the public’s trust in government,” said Attorney General Neronha. “Using one’s campaign fund to pay personal expenses is a form of public corruption because it may lead to improper influence over official acts, particularly by large-scale donors to whom the public official may feel particularly indebted. Mr Aponte’s resignation as a result of his felony conviction is welcome news for the people of Providence, who can move forward with representation that is committed to serving them, and no one else.”
Had the case proceeded to trial, the State was prepared to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that between December 18, 2013 and December 28, 2015, Aponte spent $13,942.29 from his campaign account, “Friends of Luis Aponte,” to pay for personal expenses. During that time, Aponte paid for items including subscriptions to Netflix and Xbox Live, iTunes, cable bills, and gas.
The case was initially referred to the Office of the Attorney General in September 2016 by the Rhode Island Board of Elections, after the Board’s review of Aponte’s campaign expenditures indicated the use of campaign funds unrelated to campaign expenses.
Aponte was indicted on May 10, 2017 by a Providence County Grand Jury. Prior to today’s plea, Aponte had rejected an earlier plea agreement at a hearing on June 14, 2019 and was given a trial date of September 9, 2019.
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Detective James Brown with the Rhode Island State Police led the investigation into the case and Assistant Attorney General John Morreira and Special Assistant Attorney General Peter Roklan prosecuted the case on behalf of the Office of the Attorney General.
[From a press release]
“I have learned that Councilman Luis A. Aponte has entered into a plea agreement and will resign as a member of the Providence City Council, a post he held for more than two decades,” writes Providence City Council President Sabina Matos (Ward 15). “As public servants, we are held to a higher standard and Councilman Aponte’s resignation is a necessary and important step forward as we continue to focus on creating greater opportunities and improving quality of life for Providence’s residents and taxpayers.”
I am deeply disappointed to hear of Councilman Aponte's felony conviction. People expect & deserve the highest standard of conduct from their elected officials. I will work expeditiously with the City of Providence & @RI_BOE to ensure Ward 10 residents are represented properly. https://t.co/Pcsoszk96j— Nellie Gorbea (@NellieGorbea) July 29, 2019
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