PAWTUCKET — Raymond A. “Chip” Hoyas, well known in city politics and a former top state Senate aide, will be punished with home confinement and the loss of his ability to collect a state pension for his involvement in a check-cashing scheme involving Senate pages.
Hoyas, 53, of Mt. Vernon Boulevard, Pawtucket, appeared before Justice Kristen E. Rodgers for a sentencing hearing on Friday morning in Providence Superior Court. Looking somber, he made no comment before or after the hearing. His attorney, Michelle Alves, also said her client had nothing public to say about the matter after he was escorted out of the courtroom by a sheriff to begin his sentence.
Hoyas, a former Pawtucket City Councilman, worked at the State House for 24 years, most recently as deputy chief of staff to former Senate President Joseph Montalbano. Part of his $104,389-a-year job was to oversee the payroll checks for Senate pages and other State House workers. Following an investigation by Rhode Island State Police that took place through much of 2009, he was arrested in 2010 for allegedly forging payroll checks worth over $70,000 belonging to pages.
On October 25, Hoyas pleaded no contest to the charges, which included 52 counts of forgery, and one count each of larceny over $500 and obtaining money under false pretenses. He blamed his actions on a gambling problem. Until Friday's sentencing, he had been free on $10,000 personal recognizance.
On Friday, Justice Rodgers sentenced Hoyas to 10 years, with four years to be served on home confinement and the remaining six years suspended with probation. She also revoked Hoyas' entire state pension benefit that he would otherwise have been entitled to, and ordered him to attend gambling counseling.
Rodgers noted that as a condition of his plea agreement, Hoyas had made full restitution of the amount of money he had stolen, which totaled $71,168. She also said he has agreed to not seek any legal recourse in the pension dismissal and to drop any applications he has made with the state Retirement Board to receive disability benefits.
When speaking of the decision regarding Hoyas' pension, Rodger's called his conduct “deplorable” given that his high-level position at the State House “presumes that honorable service will be rendered.” She cited the severity of the crime, the monetary loss to the employees, and the public trust that had been placed in Hoyas as reasons for her ruling.
Hoyas had resigned from his post as deputy chief of staff in December 2008. According to previous news reports, a week prior to his resignation, he had filed an application seeking a $49,000-a-year disability pension from the state.
At a Retirement Board sub-committee hearing in April, Hoyas reportedly spoke of his declining health due to diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity, and said he had been unable to work since leaving his State House job in 2008. The board had tabled his request, saying it needed more information.
In documents pertaining to the criminal case, it was alleged that Hoyas submitted falsified hours of time worked by 52 former Senate pages, received payroll checks in their names, forged their signatures and co-signed his name on the checks, and then deposited the checks into his personal bank account at the Pawtucket Credit Union. Investigators from the State Police Major Crimes Unit found that from Feb. 11, 2005 through Dec. 12, 2008, Hoyas allegedly cashed more than 170 checks for various amounts totaling approximately $70,000.
Former Attorney General Patrick Lynch, who also grew up in Pawtucket, said at the time that he had known Hoyas for about 30 years, but still found his behavior regarding the check-cashing scheme to be offensive and inexcusable. He cited the value of the State House page program and noted that the pages are mostly high school and college students who receive $10 an hour for their part-time work.
Among the 52 individuals allegedly defrauded by Hoyas were sons, daughters, and other relatives of many high-ranking lawmakers, including Montalbano's nephew, former Pawtucket Sen. John McBurney's son and daughter, and East Providence Rep. Helio Melo's son.
Amy Kemp, a spokeswoman for Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin, noted that the attorney general's office had wanted to see a harsher sentence for Hoyas that involved 10 years with three years to serve at the Adult Correctional Institutions.
Long active in Pawtucket Democratic circles, Hoyas was elected to the City Council in 1997 and represented Ward 3 from 1998 until 2004. He was chairman of the Pawtucket Democratic City Committee in 1997.