NBC 10 I-Team: RI state rep-elect forged campaign invoices
State representative-elect Laufton Ascenção, a Democrat from Bristol-Warren, is apologizing for a strange and elaborate lie he self-admittedly conjured up.
As first reported by EastBayRI, he promised to put together and pay for a Democratic group mailer that would have gone out to some 400-plus households in Warren during the 2018 campaign season.
The other candidates thought he had sent the mailer out. Under state law, they would have to report to about a $400 “in kind contribution” to the Board of Elections.
Dr. June Speakman, who is one of those four candidates, was suspicious of the mailer and started to ask questions when the December reporting deadline loomed.
“The documents didn't add up and the fact that it had taken so long to produce them and the fact that no one in Warren had seen the mailer,” added to her suspicion, she said.
Besides Speakman, the other Warren Democratic Committee candidates included C. Brandt Heckert, Keri Cronin and Keith Phillis.
It turns out Ascenção never sent out the mailer and made up phony documents to pass off the lie.
On Tuesday, the 25-year-old rep-elect posted an apology on his Facebook page, saying, “I did a stupid and an immature thing.”
He wrote that he designed the mailer, but was embarrassed when he couldn’t get it out before the election. Instead of coming clean, he came up with the lie, he said.
"I showed them a copy of the mailer that I had drafted, a mock invoice that was dated for November 10, and a photo of a check I wrote,” he noted. “In reality, at no point was any expense accrued, any order placed, or any check mailed.”
Speakman, who ended up losing her bid for the council, called the scheme unusual and hard to understand.
“It's a betrayal of the kinds of things I had hoped to stand for, that I stood for in the past as an elected official, and I hope to stand for in the future,” Speakman said. “So, that's where the disappointment and hurt comes in.”
Libertarian Bill Hunt lost to Ascencao in November. During the campaign, Hunt had questioned that Ascenção was a commercial quahogger, as he claimed. He isn’t surprised by the latest development.
“This isn't an honest youthful mistake that he committed,” Hunt said. “It's something that shows directly to his character and how he's going to represent the constituents of District 68 at the State House.”
Ascenção did not answer his phone Tuesday and no one answered the door at his Bristol apartment.
“I may not have broken the law but I did break the trust of friends and allies,” he wrote on Facebook.
Speakman told NBC 10 she agrees with a statement issued by the Warren Democratic Town Committee urging the rep-elect to step down and not take office in January.
While Ascençãoran as a progressive democrat, in opposition to House Speaker Nick Mattiello, the Speaker had no comment Tuesday, according to his spokesperson.