Trials of the Century: Joseph Mollicone Jr.
It was the crisis that kicked off the 1990s in Rhode Island.
Later this year will mark 25 years since the events that triggered the credit union collapse that left depositors looking for their money and authorities looking for one man: Joseph Mollicone Jr.
Mollicone was the president of Heritage Loan and Investment Bank who embezzled millions of dollars. Knowing the ax was about to fall, Mollicone fled, spending about 18 months in Salt Lake City with a different look and a new name.
He finally surrendered to authorities in April 1992. It was Palm Sunday.
His trial would start nearly a year later, and a little later than originally scheduled.
"So yeah, there was some pressure. I felt it," former attorney general Jeff Pine said recently.
Pine inherited the Mollicone case. The trial was set to begin under his watch, right after he took office in January 1993. But he got a 60-day continuance.
"I had made the decision to replace the lead prosecutor and put in one of the people I was keeping in office during the transition," Pine said.
That was Kevin Bristow, who started trying the case in March 1993. Pine said their overall strategy was to follow the money.
Mollicone's former bank vice president was a key witness for the prosecution.
Mollicone's life on the run would also play a central role in the trial, with testimony from a friend and Mollicone's live-in girlfriend, who both knew him in Utah as John Fazzioli.
"Any time you can show somebody was a fugitive, it shows consciousness of guilt. His life and lifestyle out in Utah was relevant for our purposes in terms of the prosecution," Pine said.
The trial would last a month with evidence including surveillance video from the bank and testimony about a purchased Ferrari.
The guilty verdict came down April 23, 1993.
Mollicone was sentenced to 30 years in prison. He would serve 10.
In the predawn hours of July 24, 2002, I was the only reporter there when Mollicone, who was paroled, walked out of the ACI. I asked him where the money went.
"People who are supposed to know, know it's gone," he responded.
As part of his release, Mollicone was required to speak to students about business ethics.
Today, Mollicone still lives and works in Rhode Island. He did not want to do an interview for this report, but he did say, "I still regret it and am sorry for the pain I caused."
He continues to pay the court-ordered restitution for the millions he embezzled.
Mollicone goes to Superior Court in Providence to make his payments in person. Right now, that payment is set at $217 a month, though we're told he often rounds up to $225 or $250. The balance of restitution is about $11,975,302.50.
Mollicone, now 71 years old, goes before a magistrate once a year for a financial review. His next court date is Dec. 8.
At his current rate of payment, it would take about 4,000 years to pay back the money he stole a quarter of a century ago.