Two lawmakers clash in tax sale lawsuit

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — A pair of local lawmakers are tangled in a lawsuit over a failed tax sale involving a piece of property in Providence, with one stating the other’s claims are “fictional”, Target 12 has learned.

The lawsuit filed by state representative Greg Costantino was back in court recently, after years of back and forth between Costantino and long-serving Providence City Councilman Luis Aponte.

Costantino, a Lincoln democrat, was elected to serve house district 44 in 2012. Aponte, also a democrat, was elected to the Providence City Council in 1998.

Records show an abandoned triple-decker on Husted Court off Broad Street was secured by Costantino in a 2005 tax sale. Target 12 obtained a copy of a canceled check for $37,210 that was written to the city from Costantino’s Cost Realty to potentially pay the back taxes on the property.

In court documents, Aponte claimed he went to the city tax collector’s office with Costantino to deliver the check for the Husted tax sale. But after the deal fell through about a year later due to a lien on the property, a copy of a city check obtained by Target 12 indicates Aponte was paid back the $37, 210. Aponte admits he put the money in his personal account, according to court documents.

In a 2012 deposition, Aponte stated he gave $10,000 back to Costantino. Aponte claimed Costantino agreed to let him hold onto the rest of money for “other deals.”

“There was a verbal agreement to acquire the tax title, sell the property and we would split the proceeds,” Aponte said in the deposition.

Aponte went on to state that he no longer has the $27,210 that would’ve been left over from the tax sale reimbursement he received from the city.

“The money was spent,” Aponte said in the deposition. “I mishandled the money.”

In another document from his lawsuit, Costantino calls the councilman’s claim that the two men had a “verbal agreement” about 3 Husted Court, “Aponte’s fictional characterization of events.”

Neither Aponte nor Costantino would comment about their dispute.

“I can’t tell you anything. The matter is still in court,” Aponte said.

Costantino also said he “could not comment about the ongoing lawsuit.”

Costantino filed a claim for the disputed money with the city council claims committee in March of 2012, but Aponte’s council colleagues voted against the claim. Target 12 reached out to the city, to ask why the check was written to Aponte, but no one was available to comment at this time.

Send tips to Target 12 Investigator Walt Buteau at wbuteau@wpri.com and follow him on Twitter @wbuteau.

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