Ex-Rhode Island House speaker pleads guilty to federal charges

Gordon Fox

Gordon Fox AP

Updated: 6:00 p.m. EST

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Former Rhode Island House Speaker Gordon Fox, who in 2010 became the state’s first openly gay speaker, has pleaded guilty to charges of bribery, wire fraud and filing a false tax return following an investigation that included a dramatic federal raid on the Statehouse.

Gordon FoxAP

Gordon Fox

Fox, once considered among the most powerful politicians in state politics, appeared in federal court Tuesday. The government has recommended a three-year prison sentence.

Fox acknowledges in court documents he received $52,500 in 2008 to help grant a liquor license to a Providence bar when he served on the city’s board of licenses. He also acknowledges making about 28 interbank transfers totaling $108,000, taking money from his campaign account and using it for personal expenses.

“Former Speaker Fox looted his campaign account repeatedly,” said U.S. Attorney Peter Neronha, adding that Fox acted as though his official position on the board of licenses were for sale.

Prosecutors say the personal expenses included mortgage payments, car loan payments, his American Express bill and purchases at Tiffany’s, Urban Outfitters, TJ Maxx, Target, Walmart and Warwick Animal Hospital. They say the diverted funds represent about 15 percent of the campaign donations he received, and he overstated the account balance in campaign finance reports to hide his actions from the board of elections.

He’s accused of filing false tax returns by knowingly failing to include the personal income he received from the bribe and the fraudulent transfers.

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Fox, once considered among the most powerful politicians in state politics, was forced to resign his speakership after the raids, when federal agents were seen carting out boxes of evidence from his home and office at the Statehouse.

The Democrat announced he was stepping down as speaker the following day, but he finished out his term in the House, representing a neighborhood on Providence’s upscale East Side. That term ended in January.

Since the raids, investigators have mostly refused to detail what they were looking at. However, other information has trickled out about the investigation and about how Fox managed his campaign finances and business affairs.

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