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PROVIDENCE (AP) â€” A state legislator charged with misappropriating funds from a life insurance policy on his friend's dead daughter told investigators he used some of the money to pay his business' bills, according to court papers.
State Rep. Leo Medina, a freshman Democrat from Providence, is accused of pocketing $28,000 from a life insurance policy that he was helping his friend cash in. Medina told investigators he paid Alejandro Nico $6,200 to $6,400 but used some of the money to pay bills for his struggling business, according to an affidavit written by a state police detective.
Medina said he had tried to reach Nico to tell him, but he could not locate Nico and his friend's phone was turned off, according to the affidavit. Medina said he had no record of the payments to Nico and could provide authorities with no documentation, the affidavit said.
The affidavit, written by state police Detective Robert A. Creamer, also says Medina claimed he had a verbal agreement with Nico in which Medina would pay Nico the life insurance proceeds on an "as needed basis," whenever Nico came to him for the money.
Nico told investigators he received no money from Medina, that there was no such arrangement and that he never gave Medina permission to use any of the money himself.
Nico's 32-year-old daughter died of heart failure in May 2007. He had asked Medina to help him cash two life insurance checks, because he didn't have a bank account himself, authorities said. Nico told authorities Medina did not ask for a fee.
State police Col. Steven G. O'Donnell said Thursday that Nico "doesn't speak English well, so he solicited his friend Leo Medina to be the conduit to help him get this done."
Medina told The Associated Press on Thursday that he's innocent of the charge and predicted he would soon be cleared. He said the charge relates to a simple disagreement over money, but he declined to answer specific questions about the allegations.
"This is going to go away," he said. "This is nothing but extortion. In 30 days it will be gone."
A message left for Medina at his business, Southside Professional Services, on Friday was not immediately returned. The firm says it provides services in areas such as immigration, divorce and other legal matters, and makes referrals to attorneys as needed.
Earlier this year, Medina came under fire when a state legal disciplinary panel determined that Southside Professional Services promoted itself as a legal office even though Medina has no law degree or license to practice law. The panel's findings were referred in July to the state attorney general for possible prosecution.
In March, a judge ordered Medina to forfeit his legislative pay to satisfy an $11,154 debt after he defaulted on the payments for a car he bought 10 years ago.
Authorities said the new criminal charge is not related to Medina's other troubles.