Rep. claims 38 Studios probe prompted threat

PROVIDENCE, RI (WPRI) – State police confirmed their investigation into a threat mailed to a state representative, who believes the motivation for the letter is tied to an inquiry by a house committee into the policies and procedures that led up to the taxpayer backed loan guarantee given to 38 Studios.

District 40 Republican Michael Chippendale said he received the threatening letter last week. It was addressed to the state house with his name on it, and read, “You have a beautiful family. Stop poking around for their sake.”

“I was shocked,” he said. “You can threaten me but not my family.”

Last Month, Chippendale was appointed secretary of the House Oversight Committee by House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello, shortly after the Cranston Democrat took over the house’s top post. Mattiello’s rise to power came only days after state and federal investigators raided former House Speaker Gordon Fox’s state house office and Providence home.

Fox was House Speaker during the 2010 General Assembly session, when a bill was passed that created a $100 million dollar loan guarantee program that would be controlled by the Rhode Island Economic Development Corporation. RIEDC allocated three quarters of that fund to 38 Studios in July 2010, but the gaming venture was officially out of business by May of 2012.

Chippendale said the Oversight Committee started looking into the “policies and procedures” that led to the passage of the loan guarantee measure, about a month ago. Since then, Chippendale said he has heard from about a dozen people who claim to have inside information about 38 Studios and how the $75 million was spent. He said other committee members have also been contacted by several potential sources.

“We have happened upon information that indicates criminal wrong-doing,” Chippendale said.

But he added he was “not in a position right now” to offer any details. He is positive the threat is tied to the recent effort to uncover information about 38 Studios.

“It’s the same time frame of the 38 Studios work by this committee,” Chippendale said. “I am not investigating or poking around in anything else. So, this letter demanding I stop poking around with what I’m doing. It’s pretty clear what they’re talking about.”

Chippendale said the F B I asked that he not release pictures of the letter, which was postmarked last Monday at a Providence post office. State police confirmed for Target 12 that they’re investigating the threat.

Chippendale admits the letter shook him up, but he said it did not blur the focus of the Oversight Committee.

“We are being very aggressive with our duties to root out the policy and procedure problems with the entire situation with 38 studios,” he said. “We’ve hit a nerve. Obviously someone is not happy with the paths we are following.”

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

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