Jim Taricani wrote this first person account of his 30-plus years reporting for the NBC 10 I-Team.
I formed the first and only I-Team in the market at the time in 1979.
With producers Gary Scurka and Polly Reynolds and videographer Bob Emerson, we produced ground-breaking investigations.
Our first six-month long investigation revealed that the Laborers’ International Union of North America, whose national president happened to live in Providence, had been infiltrated by the New England Mafia, headed up by the late crime boss, Raymond Patriarca.
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I traveled the country and met with confidential sources within the union to produce the report. I flew to Miami and broke the story when the indictments were handed down.
I was also threatened with jail for refusing to disclose a confidential source after the story aired, but the Rhode Island shield law saved me.
The I-Team spent four months investigating the dumping of toxic waste into Rhode Island landfills. We proved it was being brought here by mob-backed trucking companies from New York and New Jersey and the toxic waste came from major chemical companies in the Garden State. Rhode Island authorities used our story as the basis of a civil suit against the chemical companies and recouped millions.
I covered the New England Mafia for over 20 years. I befriended a hitman for the mob, Nicky Palmigiano. I produced a riveting TV series called “Hitman.” Nicky detailed the contract killings he did and how it was to work for crime boss Raymond Patriarca.
“He would call you outside and say he wanted someone nailed,” Palmigiano said.
Raymond Patriarca was a powerful mob boss. He ran the rackets in New England out of his headquarters in Providence. He worked under the Genovese crime family in New York.
But Patriarca respected the stories I did about him. When he died, his son invited me to the wake. I’m still the only reporter in the country to have been allowed into the wake of a mob boss. And his son handed me a rose from his father’s coffin on the day of the mob boss’s burial.
I investigated government corruption along with investigative and political reporter Dyana Koelsch.
One of the biggest corruption cases in the state’s history was the collapse of the state’s entire credit union business because of one man, Joe Mollicone.
Mollicone used his Heritage Savings and Loan credit union, backed by a state insurance agency, as a personal piggy bank — but it crashed. The state insurance company had to pay the $25 million tab and Mollicone skipped town for nearly three years. He finally turned himself in, but no one knew where he had been hiding. But I discovered his hiding place. He had been living in this apartment in Salt Lake City Utah under the name of Joseph Fazzioli. I traveled there and one day after I aired my first report, the attorney general sent investigators there to play catch up.
When Providence was having a problem with too many stolen guns on the street, I disguised myself and bought a stolen shotgun off of a street dealer. The story made for a vivid example of the problem.
The international socialite Claus von Bulow was the subject of another of my investigations. He stood trial for trying twice to kill his wealthy Newport wife, Sunny von Bulow. Because of the work I did on the case, von Bulow gave me the first exclusive interview after he was found not guilty of the charges.
The national and international press covered the trial in Providence – von Bulow was sought after for interviews from all the networks. But I beat them all.
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“What did happen to your wife, Sunny?” I asked him.
Von Bulow responded: “I don’t know. I know I didn’t do anything wrong.”
In 1989, the FBI began investigating the notorious Providence Mayor Vincent Buddy Cianci.
I broke most of the major stories during that investigation and aired a confidential FBI tape, showing Cianci’s right hand man taking a $1,000 cash bribe in his office. Because the tape was secret grand jury material, a federal judge investigated me and demanded I give up the source who gave me the tape. I refused and was sentenced to six months of home confinement.