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Judge to Toss R.I. Medical Center Charges

April 8, 2006

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) _ A judge on Friday agreed to dismiss corruption charges against a medical center after federal prosecutors said the hospital was on the path to reform.

In January, the hospital, its then-president and two other executives were charged in an influence-peddling probe. They allegedly hired a state senator for a quarter-million dollars to use his position to promote the hospital’s legislative interests.

Federal prosecutors later agreed to dismiss the charges against the hospital if it cooperated in the investigation against the executives and made several major reforms, including appointing a permanent ethics officer.

The hospital has taken ``quick, decisive and effective action to remedy the harm caused by its executives,″ Assistant U.S. Attorney Gerard Sullivan said.

He said the government did not want to punish the nonprofit hospital or see it shut down.

Judge Ernest Torres noted that prosecutors could reinstate the charges if they believed the medical center had stopped moving forward with the promised reforms.

Former state Sen. John Celona, who stepped down from the General Assembly in 2004, pleaded guilty to fraud charges last year and has agreed to cooperate with the government.

Charges of conspiracy and fraud are still pending against former chief executive Robert A. Urciuoli; former senior vice president Frances P. Driscoll; and Peter J. Sangermano Jr., who ran an assisted living facility that was affiliated with hospital.

All three have pleaded not guilty.

Attorneys for Urciuoli and Sangermano declined to comment Friday. Attorneys for Driscoll did not return calls seeking comment.

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