CHAPTER SIXTEEN

Operation Plunder Dome

Anthony Freitas gets an envelope with $1,000 and instructions from FBI agent Dennis Aiken before heading to Frank Corrente's office in City Hall. Courtesy of The Providence Journal.

Anthony Freitas gets an envelope with $1,000 and instructions from FBI agent Dennis Aiken before heading to Frank Corrente's office in City Hall. Courtesy of The Providence Journal.

Dennis Aiken is an FBI agent from Mississippi. Anthony Freitas is a businessman from Portugal. Together, they’re Providence’s best hope in the war on corruption—and they just might take down Buddy Cianci once and for all.

More on this episode from The Providence Journal →

LISTEN TO CHAPTER SIXTEEN


UNFINISHED BUSINESS

In the 1970s, during Buddy Cianci's first administration, FBI agent Dennis Aiken investigated corruption in Rhode Island. Although he was eventually transferred elsewhere, in 1994 he returned to Providence, and picked up where he left off. Courtesy of The Providence Journal.

In the 1970s, during Buddy Cianci's first administration, FBI agent Dennis Aiken investigated corruption in Rhode Island. Although he was eventually transferred elsewhere, in 1994 he returned to Providence, and picked up where he left off. Courtesy of The Providence Journal.

I believed that Buddy was corrupt. And I believed that if I came back here, I might could help to fix that.
— FBI Agent Dennis Aiken
On election night in November 1994, Buddy Cianci takes a call at the bar in his home at 33 Power Street. Courtesy of The Providence Journal/William K. Daby.

On election night in November 1994, Buddy Cianci takes a call at the bar in his home at 33 Power Street. Courtesy of The Providence Journal/William K. Daby.


The ODD COUPLE

When Anthony Freitas started his air-conditioning company, JKL Engineering, he immediately encountered building inspectors eager for bribe money. Freitas says he chased them out with a 2x4. Courtesy of The Providence Journal/Ruben W. Perez. 

When Anthony Freitas started his air-conditioning company, JKL Engineering, he immediately encountered building inspectors eager for bribe money. Freitas says he chased them out with a 2x4. Courtesy of The Providence Journal/Ruben W. Perez. 

In Tony Freitas, Dennis Aiken found a willing informant. Eager to weed out corruption in Providence, Freitas began working undercover for the FBI in 1998. He even asked to put on a wire. 

I want to go undercover. I want to get these cockroaches.
— Anthony Freitas
David Ead owned a business called Doris Vending, which, according to the FBI, he used to launder money. Ead was also the vice-chairman of the Board of Tax Assessment Review. Courtesy of The Providence Journal/Steve Szydlowski.

David Ead owned a business called Doris Vending, which, according to the FBI, he used to launder money. Ead was also the vice-chairman of the Board of Tax Assessment Review. Courtesy of The Providence Journal/Steve Szydlowski.

As part of his undercover operation, Freitas asked Ead to launder money for him. Ead would have Freitas write checks to Doris Vending, and in return gave Freitas the cash he needed to pay bribes.


UP THE FOOD CHAIN

That’s the way you do things. That’s the way the game is played. Money.
— Joe Pannone, to Anthony Freitas

In exchange for bribes, Joe Pannone offered to arrange meetings between Freitas and Frank Corrente, the director of administration for Buddy Cianci. "Frank's the front man," Pannone said.

When Freitas offered money, Frank Corrente made a show of rejecting it — insisting "it's not necessary" — but then put the money in his desk. Freitas says that Corrente was Buddy's "bag man," collecting bribes on the mayor's behalf.


Operation Plunder Dome

David Ead leaves Federal Court after being arrested by FBI agents. Ead was charged with laundering money to facilitate bribery. At right is Ead's lawyer, former attorney general James E. O'Neill. Courtesy of The Providence Journal/Andrew Dickerman.

David Ead leaves Federal Court after being arrested by FBI agents. Ead was charged with laundering money to facilitate bribery. At right is Ead's lawyer, former attorney general James E. O'Neill. Courtesy of The Providence Journal/Andrew Dickerman.

Joe Pannone tries to hide under a coat as he leaves the Federal Court after being indicted on charges of money laundering for bribery. Courtesy of The Providence Journal/Mary Beth Meehan.

Joe Pannone tries to hide under a coat as he leaves the Federal Court after being indicted on charges of money laundering for bribery. Courtesy of The Providence Journal/Mary Beth Meehan.

April 29, 1999

Courtesy of the Providence Public Library/The Providence Journal.

An FBI agent leaves the Tax Assessor's Office at Providence City Hall. In April 1999, investigators descended on five city offices with search warrants. Courtesy of The Providence Journal/Bob Thayer.

An FBI agent leaves the Tax Assessor's Office at Providence City Hall. In April 1999, investigators descended on five city offices with search warrants. Courtesy of The Providence Journal/Bob Thayer.

FBI agents leave Providence City Hall carrying boxes of evidence taken from the Tax Assessors office. Courtesy of The Providence Journal/Ruben W. Perez.

FBI agents leave Providence City Hall carrying boxes of evidence taken from the Tax Assessors office. Courtesy of The Providence Journal/Ruben W. Perez.


Buddy Cianci holds a press conference in his office at City Hall to discuss the FBI investigation and the arrests of two Providence tax officials. At his side is city solicitor Charles Mansolillo. Courtesy of The Providence Journal/Connie Grosch.

Buddy Cianci holds a press conference in his office at City Hall to discuss the FBI investigation and the arrests of two Providence tax officials. At his side is city solicitor Charles Mansolillo. Courtesy of The Providence Journal/Connie Grosch.

Name a city there isn’t corruption in.
— Buddy Cianci
Speaking with the press at his company, JKL Engineering, Freitas announces that he is the cooperating witness helping the FBI in Operation Plunder Dome. Courtesy of The Providence Journal/Ruben W. Perez.

Speaking with the press at his company, JKL Engineering, Freitas announces that he is the cooperating witness helping the FBI in Operation Plunder Dome. Courtesy of The Providence Journal/Ruben W. Perez.


In the days following the FBI raid of City Hall, Operation Plunder Dome was covered extensively in the press, and the inquiry began to widen.

April 30, 1999

Courtesy of the Providence Public Library/The Providence Journal.

May 2, 1999

Courtesy of the Providence Public Library/The Providence Journal.


EPISODE CREDITS

Crimetown is Marc Smerling and Zac Stuart-Pontier. It is produced by Austin Mitchell, Drew Nelles, Kaitlin Roberts, 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 Kenny Kusiak and Matthew Boll. Additional mixing by Enoch Kim and Martin Peralta. The title track is “Run To Your Mama” by Goat. Original music by John Kusiak, Kenny Kusiak, Jon Ivans, Edwin and Bienart. 

Ad music is by Matthew Boll. The show's digital editor is Rob Szypko. The design director is Ale Lariu. Archival research by Brennan Rees.This season of Crimetown is dedicated to the memory of Zachary Malinowski. Thanks to the the Providence Journal, Julia Heymans, Emily Wiedemann, Annie Muire, Lisa Newby, Kate Wells, Mary Murphy, Dan Barry, Mike Stanton —check out his book, The Prince of Providence — 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 LariuEpisode Sixteen