CHAPTER THIRTEEN

The Network

The State House is mirrored in the doorway of the State Employees Credit Union across the street. The credit union was among those that were closed as part of Governor Bruce Sundlun's banking freeze in 1991. Courtesy of The Providence Journal.

The State House is mirrored in the doorway of the State Employees Credit Union across the street. The credit union was among those that were closed as part of Governor Bruce Sundlun's banking freeze in 1991. Courtesy of The Providence Journal.

A shadowy group of political insiders tries to cover up a crisis. A mobbed-up banker vanishes after embezzling millions of dollars. And one renegade ex-nun saw the whole thing coming.

More on this episode from The Providence Journal →

LISTEN TO CHAPTER THIRTEEN


ATTILA THE NUN

Eager to make a difference in Providence's poor neighborhoods, Arlene Violet joined the Sisters of Mercy Convent in the 1960s. Courtesy of Arlene Violet/The Providence Journal.

Eager to make a difference in Providence's poor neighborhoods, Arlene Violet joined the Sisters of Mercy Convent in the 1960s. Courtesy of Arlene Violet/The Providence Journal.

For me, as a nun, the unmet need was to get rights for victims of crime.
— Arlene Violet
After joining the Sisters of Mercy convent, Arlene Violet decided to go to Boston College Law School. Courtesy of Arlene Violet.

After joining the Sisters of Mercy convent, Arlene Violet decided to go to Boston College Law School. Courtesy of Arlene Violet.

Arlene Violet announced at a rally in January 1984 that she would seek the office of Attorney General. Courtesy of The Providence Journal/Rachel Ritchie. 

Arlene Violet announced at a rally in January 1984 that she would seek the office of Attorney General. Courtesy of The Providence Journal/Rachel Ritchie. 

In a 1992 inquiry about the causes of the Rhode Island banking crisis, Violet was adamant that she had predicted the crash during her tenure as attorney general from 1985 to 1987. She claimed that a "network" of political and business elites thwarted her attempts at financial reform. Courtesy of the Rhode Island State Archives.


A BANKER DISAPPEARS

Joseph Mollicone Jr., president of the Heritage Loan and Investment Company, fled after embezzling millions of dollars from his bank. Just four days after he vanished, the public learned that the Rhode Island Share and Deposit Indemnity Corporation, or RISDIC, was taking over Heritage. Speculation surrounding Mollicone's whereabouts placed him as far away as Italy or South America. Courtesy of the Rhode Island State Archives/WJAR. 

The Heritage Loan and Investment Company on Atwells Avenue in Federal Hill. Joe Mollicone Jr.'s father had been Raymond Patriarca's banker, and there were persistent rumors that Heritage was mob-affiliated. Courtesy of The Providence Journal.

The Heritage Loan and Investment Company on Atwells Avenue in Federal Hill. Joe Mollicone Jr.'s father had been Raymond Patriarca's banker, and there were persistent rumors that Heritage was mob-affiliated. Courtesy of The Providence Journal.

During his disappearance, Mollicone failed to make his mortgage and tax payments. His house on Blackstone Boulevard—previously owned by Mayor Buddy Cianci—was foreclosed upon and auctioned off. Courtesy of The Providence Journal.

During his disappearance, Mollicone failed to make his mortgage and tax payments. His house on Blackstone Boulevard—previously owned by Mayor Buddy Cianci—was foreclosed upon and auctioned off. Courtesy of The Providence Journal.


THE CRISIS BEGINS

January 2, 1991

Our commitment to protecting your savings is carved in stone.
— RISDIC Advertisement
Protesters leave the State House as they march toward Kennedy Plaza during a demonstration in September 1991. Courtesy of The Providence Journal/Andrew Dickerman.

Protesters leave the State House as they march toward Kennedy Plaza during a demonstration in September 1991. Courtesy of The Providence Journal/Andrew Dickerman.

With $1.7 billion in assets frozen, customers of the closed credit unions protested. They still had to make loan payments but could not make withdrawals, write checks, or use credit cards. Courtesy of Mary Murphy.

With $1.7 billion in assets frozen, customers of the closed credit unions protested. They still had to make loan payments but could not make withdrawals, write checks, or use credit cards. Courtesy of Mary Murphy.

About 400 depositors from closed credit unions protest at Marquette Credit Union in Woonsocket in September 1991. Courtesy of The Providence Journal/Frieda Squires.

About 400 depositors from closed credit unions protest at Marquette Credit Union in Woonsocket in September 1991. Courtesy of The Providence Journal/Frieda Squires.

Several hundred thousand depositors were locked out of their accounts during the banking crisis. Public anger mounted even more when it was revealed that some bankers, politicians, and other well-connected people may have been tipped off about the shutdown and withdrawn funds in advance. Courtesy of the Rhode Island State Archives/WJAR.


SETTLING DEBTS

April 13, 1992

I had no idea there would be a banking crisis.
— Joseph Mollicone Jr.

April 23, 1993

Mollicone was placed on a restitution payment plan that would take more than 4,500 years to pay off. He claimed that the debt he owed was much lower than the $12 million figure arranged at sentencing. Courtesy of WPRI.

Mollicone was sentenced to 30 years in prison for embezzlement and bank fraud. He received parole in 2002. Courtesy of The Providence Journal.

Mollicone was sentenced to 30 years in prison for embezzlement and bank fraud. He received parole in 2002. Courtesy of The Providence Journal.


Governor Bruce Sundlun, center, created the Rhode Island Depositors Economic Protection Corporation, or DEPCO, to raise money for depositors by selling bonds. Courtesy of The Providence Journal/Mary Murphy.

Governor Bruce Sundlun, center, created the Rhode Island Depositors Economic Protection Corporation, or DEPCO, to raise money for depositors by selling bonds. Courtesy of The Providence Journal/Mary Murphy.

Each year, the Providence Newspaper Guild presents the "Follies," an evening of songs and skits parodying the year in news. In 1991, performers poked fun at RISDIC and DEPCO. Courtesy of the Rhode Island State Archives.


Episode Credits

Crimetown is Marc Smerling and Zac Stuart-Pontier. It is produced by Drew Nelles, Kaitlin Roberts, Austin Mitchell, and Mike Plunkett. The associate producer is Laura Sim. The show is edited by Alex Blumberg and Caitlin Kenney. Fact-checking by Mick Rouse. This episode of Crimetown was mixed, sound designed, and scored by Matthew Boll. Additional mixing by Enoch Kim and Kenny Kusiac. The title track is “Run To Your Mama” by Goat. The country music is "Shadows of You" by Kenny Brent and Donna Harris, courtesy of Jack Fleischer. The choir is the Providence Singers rendition of Hymn to the Virgin by Benjamin Britten. RISDIC archival footage courtesy of the Rhode Island State Archives. News archival footage courtesy of WPRI channel 12. 

Original music by John Kusiak, Jon Ivans, Bobby Lourde, Billy Klein, Edwin and Bienart. Ad music is by Matthew Boll. The show's digital editor is Rob Szypko. The design director is Ale Lariu. This season of Crimetown is dedicated to the memory of Zachary Malinowski. If you want to know more about Arlene Violet, check out her autobiography Convictions: My Journey from the Convent to the Courtroom. Thanks to the Providence Journal, Julia Heymans, Emily Wiedemann, Lisa Newby, Tim White, Jim Taricani, Ken Carlson, Phil West, Ed DiMeglio at Retro Media, Sam Eilertsen, Kate Wells, Mary Murphy, Brian Andrews, Dan Barry and everybody who shared their stories with us. Providence is a special place, and we're honored to tell a part of its story.

Ale Lariu