Former Providence Plan finance director sentenced to 33 months in prison

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The former Providence Plan finance director who gambled away hundreds of thousands of dollars intended for the charity was sentenced to federal prison Friday.

Charles Denno, 67, was sentenced in federal court to 33 months in prison, three years supervised release plus 100 hours of community service. He was ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $630,730.98 to the Providence Plan. He remains free on bail until he reports to prison on September 11.

Denno pleaded guilty to wire fraud in March after he was caught stealing more than $700,000 from the Providence Plan and using it to gamble at Twin River Casino. Prosecutors said Denno admitted to creating fake invoices in order to deposit grants from the U.S. Department of Education and the Bloomberg Foundation into his own bank account between 2012 and 2016.

Denno hasn’t paid back any of the money, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office, which has caused “incalculable damage” to the education nonprofit.

“In stealing from the Providence Plan, [Denno] ultimately stole from the people the Providence Plan serve: dislocated urban workers, impoverished families, potential high school dropouts, and countless others,” Assistant U.S. Attorney John P. McAdams wrote in a sentencing memo.

The memo says the Providence Plan has had to lay off employees as a result of losing the funds, and the organization’s executive director resigned over the incident. The nonprofit receives state, federal and private grants for its programs that benefit children and adults.

“Then he literally wasted the money at a casino,” McAdams wrote.

Denno’s attorney Kevin Bristow contends that Denno is a diagnosed compulsive gambler and suffers from “diminished capacity” and depression, even attempting suicide because of the police investigation. He wrote in his own sentencing memo that “it is clear that Mr. Denno suffered from a significantly reduced mental capacity in that he could not control behavior that he knew was wrongful.”

Bristow said Denno has gambled away all his savings accounts and retirement funds and currently owes Twin River Casino $10,000. Prosecutors said it was doubtful he would be making restitution payments to the Providence Plan.

In an email, Providence Plan executive director Jim Berson said: “The Providence Plan is pleased that justice was served today.”