I-Team: Bishop, former mayor write in support of Caramadre

With just six days left to sentencing, 90 people, including the Roman Catholic bishop of Providence and a former mayor of Boston, have written to U.S. District Court Judge William Smith on behalf of estate planner Joseph Caramadre.

Caramadre and his business partner pleaded guilty to stealing the identities of terminally ill patients and using their information in an annuity investment scheme that made millions for the two men.

During the 15-year scheme, Caramadre placed ads in the Catholic Visitor newspaper, seeking terminally ill patients for his illegal scam.

Despite that fact, Providence Bishop Thomas Tobin wrote, "I am convinced that Mr. Caramadre's support of the Church and other not-for-profit organizations has been motivated by his sincere desire to do good."

Another man closely associated with the Catholic Church also wrote on behalf of Caramadre. Former Boston Mayor Ray Flynn, who was ambassador to the Vatican from 1993 to 1997, said he knew Caramadre from working with the Rhode Island Big Brothers organization.

"I hope you don't mind me telling you of the fine man that I saw who helped so many people down on their luck," Flynn said in a letter to the judge.

Family members, including Yolanda Caramadre, Joseph's mother who died last week, wrote letters extolling what they say were the virtues of Caramadre. They said he was a family man who cared for others who were less fortunate than he.

Robert Flanders Jr. was at one time Caramadre's lawyer in his criminal case. He is also a personal friend and used Caramadre to set up insurance plans for his family.

"As a result of the legal proceedings against him, Mr. Caramadre has suffered greatly and has lost just about everything that he built up over the years," said Flanders, a former Rhode Island Supreme Court justice.

Another prominent person who worked with Caramadre on the board of Roger Williams Law School during a controversial episode of bigotry allegations against the then chairman of the board, Ralph Pappito, wrote to Smith.

"I ask you to be compassionate in sentencing Joe and to consider how much he has contributed to the less fortunate," said Dr. Barbara Roberts, a well-respected cardiologist at The Miriam Hospital.

For the past several months since Caramadre pleaded guilty to mail fraud and identity theft charges, he's been in custody at the Wyatt Detention Center. Two inmates there also wrote to the judge. They said even though they hadn't known Caramadre for a long time, they believed he was a good man who cared about others.