PROVIDENCE — A top aide to House Speaker K. Joseph Shekarchi resigned Thursday amid allegations that he was a “silent” partner in a marijuana grow operation at the same time he had a High-level insider perspective on State House decision-making regarding the growth of Rhode Island’s marijuana industry.
A spokesperson for Shekarchi confirmed Thursday that John Conti, the House Speaker’s $136,032 senior deputy chief of staff, resigned Thursday morning, before WPRI-TV aired a report on the “troubling ties” of Conti with the marijuana industry and an alleged mob figure.
The report centered in part on findings by Rhode Island State Police during an investigation of undisclosed owners of organic bees, cited in a consent decree issued by the Department of Business Regulation.
“On or about February 10, 2021,” the report states, “RISP provided the Department with certain information relating to the execution of a search warrant, which resulted in the seizure and search of a cell phone belonging to Raymond R. Jenkins III, aka ‘Scarface’ (‘Jenkins’) of…Johnston,” which contained “thousands of pages of text messages, emails and pictures.”
Texts to and from Conti appear under the heading: “Undisclosed Interest Holders, Key Persons and/or Persons with Management Control”.
On April 15, 2021, “As a result of the RISP’s investigation, Jenkins was indicted on three counts: perjury, furnishing a false document to DBR, and conspiracy to commit the furnishing of a false document to DBR”. On July 29, 2021, “Jenkins pleaded nolo contendere to a count of perjury for making a material misrepresentation on a medical marijuana cultivator’s application to DBR, [stating] that he was a trimmer in the respondent’s operation when he was really the owner, according to the display of the DBR. »
Jenkins received a two-year suspended sentence with probation for his plea.
Conti has not been charged.
“Mr. Conti had no role in the business organization, Organic Bees,” Conti’s attorney, Jimmy Burchfield Jr., said in a statement to WPRI. Conti has been employed by the House of Representatives honorably serving four speakers since his first hire in December 2006.”
Shekarchi’s spokesman, Larry Berman, released this statement Thursday in response to requests from the Journal: “President Shekarchi takes allegations such as those reported in the WPRI article aired tonight very seriously and does not condone conduct President Shekarchi has absolutely no knowledge of the commercial entity known as Organic Bees or any of the other claims asserted in the story.
Under the consent decree issued by DBR, Organic Bees had until March 21, 2022 to complete the sale of its inventory to Rhode Island’s licensed medical marijuana dispensaries, known as “Compassion Centers,” and use the produced exclusively to “refund the unsecured convertible promise”. Note dated January 1, 2020 issued by [Organic Bees] to Cordos Development & Associates LLC.”