No sale for defendant’s home that was allegedly improved with taxpayer funds

WARWICK, R.I. (WPRI) — The sale of a former Warwick School Department employee’s home, that police alleged was spruced up with items purchased with taxpayer money fell through, and the home was taken off the market, the Target 12 Investigators have learned.

David LaPlante, 48, was arraigned in December on five counts of unlawful conversion for allegedly buying more than $70,000 in merchandise with school department funds. A search warrant affidavit stated about 300 items were seized from his home.

But police did not remove a deck, kitchen cabinets, a dishwasher and several other things that were attached to the Fairway Lane home, even though they were also allegedly purchased illegally. The listing for the property, which was withdrawn earlier this week, included pictures of the items LaPlante allegedly bought illegally.

At this point, there are no pending court dates for LaPlante.
At this point, there are no pending court dates for LaPlante.

Real estate records indicate he put the home up for sale in January, a short time after he was charged. The Warwick School Committee filed a motion to put a lien on the home about two weeks after a buyer signed a purchase and sales agreement, and the closing was initially scheduled for late last month.

Phone calls to the number Target 12 has on file for LaPlante have not been returned and the real estate agent who listed his property said he could not offer details about why the sale fell through or why the listing was withdrawn.

A motion to attach a lien on the home was denied earlier this month when Kent County Associate Justice Allen P. Rubine ruled it was premature to tie up assets of a defendant who has not been put on trial yet or even entered a plea.

The Prejudgment Writ of Attachment asked the court to secure the district’s claim to $72,662 that LaPlante allegedly misused. LaPlante’s attorney Mark Fay told the court the amount of equity in the home was “minimal.”

Warwick Superintendent of Schools Phillip Thornton said the school department was disappointed by Judge Rubine’s ruling, but will continue to try to recoup money following the failed sale.

“We will continue with any legal means at our disposal to recapture funds owed the city of Warwick,” Thornton said in an email.

LaPlante was terminated in December from his $100,000-a-year job as the district’s Director of Buildings and Grounds.

A computer, chainsaws, a generator and a number of tools are among the other items taken from LaPlante’s home in December, according to the search warrant affidavit. The document alleges LaPlante authorized the purchases between July 2014 and November 2015.

The affidavit states the district’s construction manager Robert Corrente noticed the improprieties while reviewing invoices. LaPlante was later asked about the dishwasher and oil tanks in a meeting with Thornton.

“LaPlante was very solemn and apologized several times before telling him these items were not in or on the school district,” the affidavit states.

According to the document, LaPlante then told the superintendent, “I am all done.”

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

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