Coraggio Italia Province Coordinator Nicola Fragomeni Among Six Arrested For Kickbacks and Corruption in Rest Home Development and Mask Purchasing Schemes in Santa Maria di Sala. Brugnaro: “I’m shocked”

Fragomeni, a former mayor of Santa Maria di Sala and currently the president of the City Council is under house arrest, along with another former mayor, Ugo Zamengo, who is currently the mayor’s managing director for general affairs. Also involved were local businesses and architect Marcello Carroro, whose studio in Santa Maria di Sala specializes in rest homes and residences for the elderly.

By Roberta De Rossi

23 January 2023

The city of Santa Maria di Sala has been rocked by a scandal. An investigation by the Carabinieri of the Investigative Bureau of Venezia has issued arrest warrants for group of six public officials, contractors and an architect. The crimes they are accused of are all against the public administration.

The former mayor Santa Maria di Sala, Nicola Fragomeni is involved. Fragomeni currently holds the office of President of the City Council, and is Province Coordinator for Luigi Brugnaro’s Coraggio Italia party [Fragomeni was suspended by Coraggio Italia immediately after his arrest].

The Prosecutor’s office also targeted another former administrator, Ugo Zamengo, an engineer and former mayor of Santa Maria di Sala from 2002 to 2007. Zamengo is also currently the mayor’s managing director for general affairs in the City Council.

The two former administrators are under house arrest.

The arrests were requested by the Public Prosecutor of Venice and were carried out in the provinces of Venice and Padua. The Padua businessmen who were arrested are Battista Camporese and Mauro Cazzaro.

Also arrested was the Technical Office Director for the Municipality of Santa Maria di Sala, Carlo Pajaro.

The last arrest was architect Marcello Carraro, whose studio in Santa Maria di Sala specializes in rest homes and residences for the elderly.

The Investigation: illegal payments from complicit contractors

The investigation, carried out between 2019 and 2022 using observation and surveillance systems, cross-referencing of telephone records and technical activities, gathered serious evidence of criminality on the part of those being investigated. The methods that were deemed to be irregular concerned the stipulation of agreements for the execution of structures and interventions in the public interest by the then mayor of the Municipality of Santa Maria di Sala and current President of its City Council.

Not only the mayor took advantage of these dynamics. Also involved were a member of the city council who has also held the office of Sala’s mayor, a municipal director, the owner of an architect’s studio and contractors.

The public administrators, in collaboration with the municipal director, acted in ways that contravened their official duties, and disclosed official secrets aimed at promoting the execution of structures and interventions for the public interest, in exchange for illicit payments made to them by complicit contractors. Those contractors were then favored over their competitors because they were willing to meet the demands for side payments made by the municipal administrators.

“The Money was Shared Among the Municipal Administrators”

The suspects are charged in particular with collaborating closely to put the contractors in contact with a private citizen to purchase their land. They offered a preliminary purchase contract, to be signed once the zoning variance to permit the construction of a new Assisted Living Facility was approved. A considerable sum of money was demanded for the approval of the municipal resolution and the related call for bids for the construction of the project. That money was then split up among the municipal administrators.

Construction at the site has not yet begun because it is subject to a specific provision of the Veneto Region, a body that has nothing to do with the investigation, which did not approve the allocation of beds needed specifically for the year 2022, again for reasons completely independent of the subject of the investigation.

The Investigation into Mask Purchases

Further serious evidence of crimes committed by those arrested regard the purchase of protective healthcare supplies, especially facemasks, which the then Mayor of Santa Maria di Sala purchased using a direct contract with a close family member who, according to the criminal charges, was assured that along with his relative he would receive a large, ilegal personal financial gain estimated to have been 60,000 euro.

Prosecutor Cherchi – a System of “extrabusta” – illegal kickbacks

Prosecutor Bruno Cherchi describes the investigation: “This investigation was triggered – which does not often happen – by a citizen who reported an incident to the Carabinieri: he was negotiating the sale of his land and was asked for an “extrabusta” – an illegal extra payment or kickback – by Municipal officials to get the zoning change from agricultural to commercial authorized. Neither the manager nor USL knew anything. The citizen refused.

After his refusal to accept the demand for payment for the zoning change, these public officials then called on other property owners, hoping to identify another lot upon which to build the care center for the elderly.

According to the charges, several businesses in the healthcare field were willing to give the public administrators as much as 10-15% of the operation.

The investigation not only involved interceptions, which are fundamental for acquiring serious evidence, but also evidence gathered about meetings between the subjects and monitoring everything that followed.”

Source: La Nuova di Venezia e Mestre

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