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Former state senator sentenced in R.I. corruption case

2 ex-executives also get jail time

Former state senator John A. Celona arrived at court with his wife, Colleen, and his lawyer, William Dimitri, in Providence. (Stew Milne/associated press)

PROVIDENCE -- A former state senator and two onetime hospital executives ensnared in a federal probe into corruption at the State House were sentenced to prison yesterday, and prosecutors said their continuing investigation now includes 14 politicians and companies.

Former state senator John A. Celona , 53, was sentenced to 2 1/2 years after admitting he sold his office to the drugstore chain CVS Corp., Roger Williams Medical Center , and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Rhode Island. In exchange, federal prosecutors said he was paid nearly $320,000.

Also sentenced yesterday was Robert A. Urciuoli , former president and chief executive of Roger Williams. He received three years for his conviction on one count of conspiracy and 35 counts of fraud for paying Celona to advance the hospital's interests in the Legislature.

Frances Driscoll, 67, a former hospital vice president, sobbed after she was sentenced to eight months in prison followed by eight months' home confinement for her conviction on a single fraud count.

Assistant US Attorney Gerard Sullivan told US District Judge Ernest Torres that Celona had cooperated extensively in the probe and that has led the investigation to seven politicians and seven corporations. Sullivan said FBI agents from other cities have become involved in the probe.

Before he was sentenced, a teary-eyed Celona apologized in court to his family, friends, and the citizens of Rhode Island.

"I hope that others who may be tempted learn from my mistakes and make Rhode Island a better place," he said.

Urciuoli maintained his innocence and said he planned to appeal, although he said he alone was responsible for hiring Celona.

"This has been a very painful and humiliating experience to me and my family," Urciuoli told Torres, who denied his request to remain free on bail pending his appeal.

Driscoll said she did not mean to do anything wrong, but now realizes that her dealings with Celona were improper. "I think that I never took the time to reconcile the friendly Senator John Celona, who wanted to do everything to help the hospital, with the fact that he was a paid consultant," Driscoll told Torres. Driscoll, who also plans to appeal, asked to be spared prison time, saying she was needed at home to care for her ailing husband.