Corso, Costantino may be in next round of 38 Studios subpoenas

Corso attorney calls committee hearings a 'three ring circus'

Michael Corso, right, the Providence attorney who helped put together the 38 Studios deal, speaks outside his Providence law office in May 2014.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – The legislative committee examining the controversial 38 Studios deal will consider issuing another round of subpoenas Tuesday, including to a key architect of the deal and the former House Finance chairman.

The House Committee on Oversight will have a discussion and “consideration of subpoenas for Steve Costantino and Michael Corso, and potential vote thereon,” according to an agenda filed for Tuesday’s meeting.

Corso is a well-connected lawyer and tax broker who was at the center of the 38 Studios deal, and made seven-figures through a patchwork of contracts, according to court documents released in September.

In the same court documents, Costantino was credited with the idea of adding $75 million to the program that authorized the 38 Studios loan when he was the House Finance chairman.

Costantino is now the health care commissioner for the state of Vermont.

Michael Lepizzera, a lawyer for Michael Corso, said in a scathing text message that it is unlikely his client will abide by the subpeona.

“No formal decision will be made regarding our response to any House Oversight Committee subpoena until I physically receive the subpoena and have an opportunity to examine the validity and propriety of the subpoena as well as the nature and scope of the House request,” Lepizzera wrote. “That being said … it is not likely that I will subject my client to become the circus elephant of a three ring circus being conducted by the ringmaster (Chairwoman) of the House Oversight Committee.”

Subpoenas by the committee, which is chaired by state Rep. Karen MacBeth, D-Cumberland, must be approved by House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello.

Corso was an ally of former House Speaker Gordon Fox, who is currently serving a 36-month prison sentence in an unrelated federal corruption case.

Court documents reviewed by Target 12 show Corso was poised to make $3.75 million from the 38 Studios deal.

It’s unclear if Corso was ever given the full $3.75 million. Rick Wester, who worked as the company’s chief financial officer, said in depositions as part of the state’s lawsuit against architects of the deal that he couldn’t remember if the payment was made.

But court documents show Corso did receive payments that totaled into the seven-figures.

A May 2011 spreadsheet shows Corso was set to receive a $1,067,912 payment to his company, Orb Development. That payout would have brought Corso’s total payments from 38 Studios to date to $2,032,092, according to the spreadsheet.

Corso was part of key meetings with Fox, 38 Studios founder Curt Schilling and board member Thomas Zaccignino well before any hint of the company coming to Rhode Island was revealed publicly.

Days after depositions and filings from the lawsuit were released by Superior Court Judge Michael Silverstein, Costantino responded in an email, minimizing his role in the controversial deal.

“My only involvement in the matter in RI was because of my former position in the RI legislature,” Costantino wrote. “I did not play any role in bringing the company to RI as did others in government. I was tasked with handling the legislation affecting the company by my superiors.”

The committee has already issued a subpoena to Schilling, but a spokesperson said constables have been unable to deliver the document to the former Red Sox ace, who lives in Massachusetts.

Tim White ( twhite@wpri.com ) is the Target 12 investigative reporter for WPRI 12 and Fox Providence. Follow him on Twitter: @TimWhiteRI

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