COVENTRY, R.I. (WPRI) — Former Coventry Fire Chief Paul Labbadia has been indicted by a statewide grand jury, accused of falsely obtaining a pension.
A Providence County grand jury handed up a secret and sealed indictment charging Labbadia, 49, on three counts: two obtaining money under false pretenses and one filing a false document.
Only Target 12 Investigator Tim White was there when Labbadia pleaded not guilty at his arraignment at Providence County Superior Court Wednesday afternoon.
Investigators say he obtained $155,000 in retiree health benefits and $23,000 in Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) payments from the city of North Providence, as well as $45,000 in state pension payments.
The charges stem not from when Labbadia was chief in Coventry, but rather from his years as a firefighter in North Providence.
Magistrate Judge Patricia Harwood released Labbadia on $25,000 personal recognizance and set a Nov. 16 pretrial conference.
Labbadia’s attorney John DeSimone – who is also the House Majority Leader for the Rhode Island House of Representatives – declined to comment. Labbadia declined to answer a reporter’s questions outside court before being whisked away in an SUV.
According to the Attorney General’s Office, Labbadia was arrested at his Coventry home following the indictment by the Rhode Island State Police. The case was being investigating by their Financial Crimes Unit.
Prosecutors said Labbadia provided false information on his application for retirement benefits.
Labbadia faces a maximum of 10 years in prison for each count of obtaining money under false pretense and one year for filing a false document if he is found guilty.
Earlier this year, Target 12 revealed the state retirement board stopped paying Labbadia his pension.
In a letter to Labbadia’s attorney dated March 31, the executive director of the Employees’ Retirement System of Rhode Island, Frank Karpinski, said the move followed a review of records that found Labbadia did not put in the required years of service as a North Providence firefighter, “rendering him ineligible for a service retirement.” The board gave him until April 30 to repay the retirement system $51,711.65.
Labbadia was terminated as a the chief in the Coventry Fire District after a wide-ranging investigation by the Target 12 Investigators last year. He was seen in undercover video leaving work in a taxpayer-funded department vehicle to go play golf in another town for hours on end; drinking during the day, then driving the fire department vehicle back to work; and even taking the department vehicle to a party on Federal Hill, where he drank and appeared to smoke – and share – marijuana before once again getting behind the wheel.