Rhode Island State Police on Tuesday arrested state Representative Joseph S. Almeida (D-Providence), the deputy majority whip in the House, alleging that he misappropriated $6,122 in campaign contributions for personal use.
In a statement, State Police said Almeida, 57, was charged with one count of unlawful appropriation over $1,500.
According to State Police, "An investigation by the Financial Crimes Unit originated from a complaint filed by the Rhode Island Department of Attorney General, who had received the results of a campaign finance audit of Mr. Almeida’s campaign finances from the Rhode Island Board of Elections. The investigation revealed that Mr. Almeida made cash withdrawals and negotiated numerous checks drawn on his campaign account that were made payable to cash or himself and were not supported by expenditure documentation. Mr. Almeida was contacted twice by the Board of Elections to rectify the situation, but he failed to respond or provide satisfactory documentation to support the expenditures in question."
State Police say a review by the attorney general's civil division "concluded that Mr. Almeida provided some documentation to support a small portion of the expenditures and cash withdrawals used to pay campaign workers, but he was unable to provide any receipts or verification to support the remaining expenditures and cash withdrawals."
Almedia, a former Providence police officer, was first elected in 1998 and he served until Leo Medina beat him in 2010. Medina was convicted in 2014 of unlawfully appropriating slightly more than $28,000. Almeida regained his former seat in 2012. Almeida did not show up for Tuesday's House session or an earlier meeting of the House Rules Committee.
House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello told reporters he thought financial challenges faced by Almeida were in the past, and that he wouldn't call on Almeida to resign his seat as a representative.
"I'm not going to make that judgment," Mattiello said. "I can tell you that he resigned his position as deputy whip. It's a decision he made. So I support him in that decision. And right now I believe he's presumed innocent, so only he knows the facts. I have not spoken to Representative Almeida, so I don't know what the facts of the case are, and I leave him to his own decisions."
In an earlier statement, Mattiello said, "I am very disappointed to learn of the arrest of Representative Almeida. I have not spoken with him yet. However, I received a letter from Representative Almeida today indicating that he has resigned his position as the Deputy Majority Whip. Under the circumstances, I find this to be appropriate and I accept his resignation from his position on the Democratic Leadership Team.”
State Police said they served a court-authorized search warrant "on all bank account activity relating to any and all campaign accounts of Mr. Almeida."
The review found that Almeida had withdrawn $6,748 in cash and checks from the campaign account from May 29, 2012 through December 31, 2012. According to State Police, "Of those expenditures, Mr. Almeida was only able to provide documentation for one expense used to pay a campaign worker $250.00. Cash deposits of $376.00 were also made during this same timeframe. Mr. Almeida was unable to account for the remaining $6,122.03 in cash withdrawals and checks made payable to cash and to himself that he negotiated against the account."
Almeida was Tuesday afternoon at the Garrahy Judicial Complex and released.
The maxium sentence for unlawful appropriation is up to 20 years in prison, a fine of up to $50,000, or both.