PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Former R.I. House Finance Chairman Ray Gallison pleaded guilty to nine federal counts Thursday, setting the stage for a June sentencing that court documents show is guaranteed to include prison time.
Gallison, 64, of Bristol, officially changed his plea to guilty during a hearing before U.S. District Court Chief Judge William Smith. Gallison will be sentenced on June 16. He faces a mandatory minimum of two years in prison for the charge of “aggravated identity theft.”
The disgraced Democrat was also charged with four counts of mail fraud, one count of wire fraud and three counts that he filed false tax documents with the IRS. The wire and mail fraud charges each come with a maximum of 20 years in prison.
Gallison listened stone-faced in court as prosecutors went through the details of his misdeeds. Judge Smith will ultimately decide his fate after probation officials conduct a background report that will provide sentencing guidelines.
Gallison will remain free on unsecured bond until his sentencing. His attorney, Anthony Traini, told the judge Gallison had paid $162,000 in restitution earlier in the day Thursday.
Jim Martin, a spokesperson for Rhode Island U.S. Attorney Peter Neronha confirmed Gallison made the payment to the court which reflected “the balance of restitution.” He still has to work out more than $226,000 in restitution payments to the IRS.
Gallison declined to comment after the hearing, pushing past reporters and entering a waiting car.
The Rhode Island U.S. Attorney’s Office brought charges against Gallison in January following a 10-month investigation. The case accuses the ex-lawmaker of taking $678,000 from the estate of a man named Ray Medley and nearly $9,000 from a disabled individual’s trust fund, as well as misusing funds from his taxpayer-funded nonprofit, Alternative Educational Programming (AEP), and tax violations.
Investigators were able to recover $515,000 in holdings to return to the Medley estate. Martin said Gallison’s restitution payment to the court on Thursday made the estate whole again.
Along with a prison term, Gallison is facing a fine of $1.8 million and three years of supervised release, according to a plea agreement he reached with prosecutors in January. He will also be ordered to make full restitution.
Gallison, first elected in 2000, abruptly resigned from the General Assembly last May under a cloud of suspicion after House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello said he was confronted about his behavior.
Gallison was serving at the time as chairman of the powerful House Finance Committee, one of the most important jobs in the legislature. He had previously been fined $6,000 by the Rhode Island Ethics Commission in 2007 for failing to disclose his employment with AEP, and his legal work has also come under scrutiny.
AEP received $2.3 million from state taxpayers between 2003 and 2016, but prosecutors indicate it was not all being used for its intended purpose. They said AEP reported spending $78,000 to assist 47 students in the 2012-13 academic year but actually spent barely $3,000 to assist two students, while nearly $65,000 went to Gallison and an associate “for no work undertaken on AEP’s behalf.”
investigators also said Gallison took nearly $9,000 from the disabled person’s trust fund in 2013 and transferred it to AEP, which owed CCRI money for tuition payments. They said he did not reimburse the trust fund until last April, two weeks after investigators interviewed him for the case.
Medley was an unmarried man with few close associates who described Gallison as a “good friend” in his will. After Medley died in 2012, investigators allege Gallison repeatedly robbed his estate, pocketing the proceeds from stocks, pawn shop transactions, a car and more. The money was supposed to go to various charities.