Former Revere Public Library Director Bob Rice Jr. pleaded guilty Tuesday morning to 20 counts of fraud and embezzlement – getting six months in jail and immediately handing over $230,000 restitution.
Suffolk Superior Court Judge Carol Ball heard the guilty plea from Rice, who was represented at the hearing by Attorneys Stephen Tassinari and Michael Cioffi.
“You admit the facts stated here today are true?” asked Judge Ball, after it was declared that he had used City funds to purchase items like a replica sub-machine gun.
“Yes I do,” replied Rice.
“You’re pleading guilty here today because you are guilty?” asked the judge.
“Yes your honor,” said Rice.
It was a tremendous reversal in attitude for Rice, who as recently as last April told the Journal that the allegations against him were politically motivated and stemmed from a conflict he had with City Auditor Laurie Giardella and Mayor Tom Ambrosino.
“The allegations are a twisting of everything I was trying to do there at the Library in the 27 years I was there,” he said last April. “[The allegations] are politically motivated and they stem from a great conflict I had with the City Auditor (Laurie Giardella), who we all know is the mayor’s girlfriend, and she despised me and she despised the Library and felt she had a hand of control over my department and every other department in the City.”
There was no such talk of that on Tuesday, as Rice gave his guilty plea just a little over a week before his trial was to begin.
Rice was solemn and humbled as he stood at the bar and admitted to stealing more than $230,000 from the Library through various schemes that went on from at least 2005 until his resignation in January 2009.
Assistant District Attorney Ben Goldberger laid out the facts of the case before the court, noting that Rice used three schemes to steal money and items using City funds.
First, using false requisitions and purchase orders, he was able to purchase many items for his own use at home – often listing that he was purchasing a set of dictionaries when he was actually purchasing exotic goods such as an elephant tusk sculpture.
Second, he purchased items that appeared to be for the library’s use, such as printer ink, computer software and DVD sets. He would then turn around and sell those items on the Ebay Internet store, and use the proceeds from that sale to buy items for his home and personal use.
Finally, in a few instances he had checks issued in his name from the City to reimburse himself for items that were never actually received. Those checks were identified by investigators as having been cashed and placed in Rice’s personal bank account.
Some of the items purchased by Rice through the various schemes included a model of Star Trek’s Starship Enterprise, a replica Tommy Sub-machine gun, Robo-Pets, a vacuum, a Leica Camera, Star Wars collectibles, a Rolex watch, an ice cream making machine, numerous home decorative items and the elephant tusk sculpture, according to Goldberger.
All in all, over the four-year period investigated, prosecutors said they could prove that $236,000 in City funds had been used illicitly, though they believe he stole around $250,000. They also requested that Rice pay $25,000 for the audit that was done to uncover his misdeeds.
Through a payment authorized by Rice’s wife and mother, he turned over to the court a $230,000 check as restitution to the City of Revere.
That lump sum went a long way towards reducing his jail time, Judge Ball indicated.
She was set to sentence him to one year in the House of Corrections until it was learned that he was able to make the large payment.
For that immediate payment, he got six months behind bars and six months suspended sentence. He will have two year’s probation once he is released from jail.
Even with the lump sum payment, some $30,000 in restitution still hung in limbo, and that was the subject of some dispute Tuesday morning.
Rice’s attorneys wanted the sum forgiven, as the City of Revere plans to sell off many of the items that Rice purchased and are currently held in storage.
“The problem is when you’re dealing with the disposal of City property, there’s a right way of doing it and a wrong way,” said Goldberger. “The right way involves a lot of red tape. We’re talking about some real esoteric items. It’s pretty much a garage sale of sorts. I agree that some credit could be given if things are sold, but not wiping away all of it.”
Said Attorney Cioffi, “Forgive me, but I’m a bit of a skeptic here on this sale. Understand, we’re talking about Revere here. Come on.”
In the end, Judge Ball and all parties agreed that whatever was sold at auction would be credited to Rice and he would pay the difference if the sale did not generate $30,000 or more.
Another piece of Rice’s puzzle is the library director position he has held in Pelham, NH since 2009 – not long after resigning in Revere.
Trustees at the Pelham Public Library have vehemently defended Rice numerous times, and hired him despite knowing of his troubles in Revere.
Two weeks ago, the Pelham Public Library granted Rice an unpaid leave for personal reasons from that job.
Pelham Trustee Fran Garboski could not be reached for comment on Tuesday, but told the Lawrence Eagle Tribune last week that the Trustees continue to support Rice and that he will decide when he wants to return to his job in Pelham.
Rice made no comment to the court on Tuesday. He was allowed to go free on Tuesday in order to secure medications and doctor’s orders for medical complications with diabetes and sleep apnea. He will report to court on Dec. 29th to be taken to the House of Corrections for his jail term.
He worked for the Revere Public Library for 27 years, and spent 12 years as its director.