Key witness in case against ex-Providence Mayor Cianci dies
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Antonio Freitas, a key witness in the federal Plunder Dome case that exposed rampant corruption in Providence City Hall and sent Mayor Buddy Cianci and other city officials to prison, has died.
Freitas died peacefully on Tuesday of natural causes surrounded by his family, one of his children, Kimberly Balkcom, confirmed to The Associated Press on Thursday. He was 73.
Freitas cooperated with the FBI and went undercover at City Hall to expose the Cianci administration’s pay-to-play scheme in the late 1990s. According to a 2002 Associated Press story, Freitas secretly recorded about 180 conversations with city officials that showed to do business with City Hall, it was necessary to bribe city officials. Cianci was sentenced to more than five years in prison on a racketeering conspiracy conviction. He died in 2016.
His cooperation in the investigation was “one of his greatest accomplishments,” according to an obituary written by the family and posted at the Rebello Funeral Home’s website.
Freitas owned an HVAC company and property in the city but refused to cheat when seeking city contracts. “He did everything by the book,” Balkcom said.
“When the FBI approached him, he said ‘I’m ready to help bust this open,’ “ his daughter said. “He said to the FBI ‘What took you so long?’ People have known about this for years and have been turning a blind eye.′ ”
Originally from San Miguel in the Azores islands of Portugal, Freitas came to the U.S. as a teenager and worked tirelessly his whole life.
“He was just the epitome of the immigrant coming to this country with nothing and achieving the American dream,” his daughter said.
Freitas is survived by one of his five siblings, his four children, his longtime companion and several grandchildren. A funeral Mass and burial are scheduled for Tuesday.