Check these out! – Audit reveals more than $220,000 in questionable — and in some cases very odd — purchases

1N102709 The waiting list hasn’t been too long for patrons at the Revere Public Library that want to check out any one of the alleged four statues of the Elephant Man that were purchased.

Then again, those statues weren’t anywhere to be found in the library either.

Those statues and many other odd and downright weird buys were just some of $220,000 of questionable purchases made by former Library Director Bob Rice Jr. purportedly for use in the library. The purchases were outlined in an independent audit performed for the city by Melanson Heath & Company. The audit covered purchases made by Rice in 2007, 2008 and part of 2009.

That audit has now been turned over to District Attorney Dan Conley for possible prosecution, said Mayor Tom Ambrosino.

"I was surprised at the extent of it," said the mayor. "I hope the DA looks at it closely. That’s the DA’s call now. Hopefully, it will lead to some action where restitution is given to the city…I strongly advise the Council to let the DA handle it. I think we can avoid a lot of aggravation, effort and cost by putting it in his hands."

Said a spokesman for the District Attorney on Tuesday, "Prosecutors have reviewed the audit and are working with Revere Police in evaluating additional evidence in the case. The investigation remains very active, even today."

After 25 years at the library, Rice abruptly resigned earlier this year when city financial officers began to question him about certain purchases he made. Not long after, the City Council agreed to spend $25,000 to do an audit looking for any potential fraud.

It appears to be money well spent.

"For the fiscal 2007, 2008 and 2009 to date we found 150 invoices totaling $220,000 which we consider questionable for library usage," read the audit report. "We also find evidence that similar purchases were made prior to fiscal 2007. During the course of our procedures we identified $40,000 of questionable purchased items, from information provided by vendors, that were made outside the time period included in the scope of this investigation."

Some of those items weren’t even in the library, and many items – all ordered from online catalog stores – were delivered to Rice’s home address.

"In addition, we found approximately 200 additional items stored at the library that are questionable for library use," continued the report. "The questionable items located include collectibles, expensive books not catalogued into the system, numerous DVD sets, furniture and household furnishings and computer technology and software purchases."

Some of the questionable items ranged from extravagant to downright strange. A short list includes:

  • Red Sox baseballs
  • A Roman Legionnaires Helmet
  • An antique Thompson submachine gun
  • Numerous different types of globes
  • Four Elephant Man Sculptures
  • Roman Pillars
  • A Rolex Watch (Sapphire Crystal Quickset Model)
  • A Batman Sculpture and Batman Cars
  • Swords and Armor
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation Technical Manual

The list is seemingly endless.

According to the audit, Rice had a system where he had allegedly forged the billing stationery of several companies that he ordered from. He would order things from the company, and then doctor those items up on the phony billing stationery to look legitimate. That, apparently, is how he got so many questionable items approved by the city’s auditors – who he had to submit purchase orders for each and every item.

For example, on one order from the Ballard Designs Company, Rice allegedly ordered an $800 Lapallisse Antique White Mirror. However, on the city’s purchase order, he listed the item as an $800 set of six books called ‘The Paulist Mirror: Catholic Teachings.’

Or, on one order from the Frontgate Company, he allegedly ordered a $1,500 Slate and Marble Mosaic-top Gas Fire Pit. However, on the city’s purchase order, he listed the item as a $1,500 set of six books called ‘Slate’s Marble & Mosic Encyclopedia.’

In other cases, allegedly some of the items were eventually returned to the company and Rice was reimbursed.

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