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Suspended R.I. chief, stripper cross paths again for court dates

By Laura Crimaldi
Associated Press / September 9, 2011

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PROVIDENCE - A suspended Rhode Island police chief and a Providence stripper linked by allegations the officer stole more than $700 from the woman’s purse last month are headed to state court on the same day for bail matters in separate cases.

Court records show Justina Cardoso, 21, and suspended North Providence police chief Colonel John J. Whiting, 57, are scheduled to appear in separate state courts today.

Whiting, of North Attleboro, Mass., is due in Sixth Division District Court in Providence for a bail review hearing. He appeared before a bail commissioner Sept. 1 and was released on personal recognizance on the condition he must pay $10,000 if he misses a court date.

Cardoso of Pawtucket faces a bail violation hearing in Providence Superior Court in a blackmail and extortion and conspiracy case. Court records show Cardoso violated a judge’s order July 28 when she left the courthouse before her case was called. She is free on $15,000 surety in that case.

Police say Cardoso and Whiting crossed paths August 28 after the police chief stole $714 from a pocketbook the woman left in the SUV she was riding in when it crashed into another vehicle in Pawtucket following a police chase.

Cardoso told investigators the stolen cash she left in the vehicle was her earnings from the Satin Doll club in Providence and from a man who paid her for her company.

Police accuse Whiting of confessing to the theft to Pawtucket police officer John Brown and then asking him and Pawtucket police chief Paul King to cover it up. The incident started while Whiting was driving to work for Tropical Storm Irene in an unmarked police vehicle and began chasing Cardoso’s SUV because he thought someone threw a bottle at his car, police said. He is charged with larceny over $500 and two counts of solicitation of obstruction of justice.

Cardoso’s blackmail and extortion and conspiracy case dates to Feb. 13, 2010, when Central Falls police say she demanded $100 from Robert Assad, who was trying to locate his younger brother, 27-year-old Michael Rigney, after not hearing from him for more than six hours, a police report shows.

The report says Cardoso answered Rigney’s cell phone when Assad called looking for his brother. Police say she claimed she had just purchased the phone from a man named Josh for $20. Assad was then telephoned by a man who identified himself as Josh and claimed he had already robbed and stabbed Rigney, dumped him behind a Dumpster at a bar and planned to kill him, the report said.

Police say Cardoso then called Assad and promised for $100 to bring him to Rigney before Josh had a chance to get to him.

Officers met up with Assad and Cardoso at their rendezvous spot, where Cardoso admitted Rigney was at her apartment. Rigney pleaded no contest last September to a conspiracy charge while two counts of blackmail and extortion were dismissed, online court records show. He was ordered to serve 15 months of a 10-year prison term and eight years and nine months of probation.

Rigney is currently being held without bail on claims he violated the terms of his sentence, online court records show.

Cardoso’s defense attorney Scott A. Lutes did not immediately return messages yesterday. She also has a pre-arraignment disposition conference scheduled for Sept. 26 in a separate drug case.

Whiting did not return a message left at his home. It is unclear whether he has a lawyer. North Providence Mayor Charles A. Lombardi has suspended him without pay.