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Ex-R.I. senator to plead guilty

Celona charged in probe of CVS

CVS Corp., the number two US drugstore chain, said former Rhode Island state Senator John A. Celona will plead guilty to federal charges as part of investigations into business relationships between politicians and the company.

Celona, who resigned from the Rhode Island Senate March 9, 2004, was charged June 27 with ''defrauding the citizens of Rhode Island," according to a statement from the US attorney's office. Celona also agreed to plead guilty in federal court to three counts of mail fraud.

The US attorney's office alleged that between April 2000 and September 2003 an unidentified pharmacy company paid Celona monthly fees totaling $45,000 to persuade the lawmaker to oppose ''Pharmacy Freedom of Choice" legislation and to benefit the company in other ways. Celona's attorney, William Dimitri, identified the company as Woonsocket, R.I.-based CVS.

When a CVS executive in August 2003 told Celona it was ending his consulting agreement, according to the US attorney's office, the executive provided Celona with a complimentary trip to a charity golf outing in San Diego.

Dimitri said Celona is scheduled to enter his guilty plea on Aug. 25, and declined to comment further. CVS made the disclosure in a filing to the Securities and Exchange Commission without naming the senator. CVS spokesman Todd Andrews identified the senator as Celona and declined further comment.

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