Please note: An indictment, information, or complaint is merely an allegation. The U.S. Constitution guarantees that a defendant is presumed innocent unless and until found guilty in a court of law.
On October 18, 2019, the Statewide Grand Jury returned an indictment charging Jeffrey Britt with one felony count of money laundering and one misdemeanor count of making a prohibited campaign contribution – specifically, making a campaign contribution but disguising it as a contribution from someone else.
As alleged in the Indictment, these charges arise from Jeffrey Britt's conduct while working in 2016 as a paid campaign consultant to Speaker Mattiello's campaign for re-election to the House of Representatives. It is alleged that Jeffrey Britt funded a $1,000 contribution made through a third party to defeated Republican primary candidate Shawna Lawton, to pay for a mailer endorsing Speaker Mattiello.
The Rhode Island Attorney General's Office (RIAG) and the Rhode Island State Police conducted the investigation after the matter was referred to the RIAG by the Rhode Island Board of Elections in October 2018.
"Rhode Island's election laws exist for a reason: to ensure transparency in our elections," said Attorney General Peter F. Neronha. "They exist to ensure that the public knows the true source of funds used to support political candidates. They exist to ensure that the public can judge the motivation underlying support for a candidate. In short, they exist to ensure the integrity of our elections."
As alleged in the Indictment, in 2016, the Republican primary for House seat occupied by Speaker Mattiello involved two candidates – Steven Frias and Shawna Lawton. Steven Frias defeated Shawna Lawton and was subsequently defeated by Speaker Mattiello in the General Election. After the Republican primary, in October of 2016, Mr. Britt met twice with Shawna Lawton to discuss the possibility that she support Speaker Mattiello's campaign in the general election. Specifically, as alleged in the Indictment, Mr. Britt discussed with Ms. Lawton distributing a mailer endorsing Speaker Mattiello as well as funding for the mailer.
Subsequently, as alleged in the Indictment, Mr. Britt approached a person described in the Indictment as Donor 1 and requested that Donor 1 contribute $1,000 to Ms. Lawton's campaign. Britt delivered $1,000 in cash to Donor 1 for this purpose. As alleged in the Indictment, Donor 1 deposited $1000 in cash into his personal checking account and shortly thereafter wrote a $1000 check from that account to the campaign of Ms. Lawton.
Ms. Lawton deposited Donor 1's $1000 check into her campaign account, along with another $1000 check delivered to her by Mr. Britt. Ms. Lawton then provided Mr. Britt with a check drawn on her campaign account for $2150, which was used to pay for the mailer.
Ms. Lawton subsequently reported the two $1,000 contributions to the Rhode Island Board of Elections, including listing the source of one of the contributions as Donor 1.
"This is a matter of great concern, and I want to assure the people of Rhode Island that this Office will stand behind the the Board of Elections in its review and investigation of election and campaign finance law violations," said Attorney General Neronha. "Simply ignoring the Board's attempts to gain information, without legally justifiable grounds, will send a strong indication to this Office that the full investigatory weight of this Office should be utilized."
Mr. Britt is scheduled to be arraigned in Kent County Superior Court on November 1, 2019.