Former Shark Bar owner charged with bribing Gordon Fox

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – One of the former owners of the Thayer Street restaurant at the center of the Gordon Fox scandal has been indicted on one charge that he bribed the former House speaker.

Raymond Hugh, one of the original partners in Shark Bar & Grille, is charged with one count of bribing a public official, according to the attorney general’s office. A grand jury reported out a secret indictment this week. He is scheduled to be arraigned Nov. 18.

Fox is currently serving a three-year prison sentence after admitting he was paid $52,500 when he served a vice-chair of the Board of Licenses in order to help the owners of Shark Bar & Grille secure a liquor license in 2008. Fox was also charged with wire fraud and filing a false tax return.

The investigation was completed by the state police and the attorney general’s office.

Reached Friday, Hugh told WPRI.com he “absolutely never” paid a bribe to Fox. He said Fox was “my lawyer for many, many years” and was hired to assist Shark Bar with advice on zoning, parking and dealing with Brown University.

“I’m just a local small businessman trying to make a living,” Hugh said. “I’ve done nothing that nobody else in the state hasn’t done regarding trying to open a business. I followed the rules.”

Asked why he believed Fox pleaded guilty to accepting the bribe, Hugh said, “that’s something I will probably never know.”

“I didn’t need to bribe anyone for such a beautiful business,” Hugh added.

Hugh’s lawyer, Michael Lepizzera, said his client intends to plead not guilty at the Nov. 18 arraignment.

“We will file a request for discovery and the govt will have to turn over whatever evidence they rely upon to support that allegation,” Lepizzera said. “That’s where it goes from there.”

Law enforcement officials have never named two other partners in Shark Bar accused of bribing Fox, but corporate filings show Bahij Boutros and Joseph Dalomba were owners of the bar.

On the day Fox pleaded guilty, Dalomba confirmed he did speak to law enforcement, but declined to say if he was involved in paying off Fox.

In March, Boutros filed a petition with Judge Michael A. Silverstein to place the business in receivership. The filing came after the city’s Board of Licenses moved to strip Shark of all of its business licenses. The board has not voted on the future of the restaurant.

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Dan McGowan ( dmcgowan@wpri.com ) covers politics, education and the city of Providence for WPRI.com. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter: @danmcgowan

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