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Narragansett Man Charged in Native American Burial Ground Scheme

Frederick F. Mell was charged with falsifying his credentials when he secured a contract job.

File photo.
File photo.

The following is from Rhode Island State Police:

Colonel Steven G. O'Donnell, Superintendent of the Rhode Island State Police and Commissioner of Public Safety, announces that on April 9, 2014, members of the State Police Financial Crimes Unit arrested Frederick F. Meli, age 64, of 24 North Hillview Drive, Narragansett, Rhode Island, for Obtaining Money Under False Pretenses, Forgery and Perjury.

The criminal charges against Mr. Meli allege that he misrepresented himself to the North Smithfield Town Council in 2007 when seeking employment with them. Mr. Meli provided the town with his resume, as well as a copy of his diploma from the University of Massachusetts. Relying on Mr. Meli's credentials, the town retained him to examine stone features located in the Nipsachuck Swamp area of North Smithfield on a property owned by the Narragansett Improvement Company. The area had been proposed for development and the town wanted to ensure that any burial grounds on the property were properly identified prior to approving the project. After conducting his assessment, Mr. Meli reported that he believed the area contained Native American burial grounds and submitted a report detailing his findings. He was paid $4,310.68 by the town for his services. The North Smithfield Town Council subsequently denied the approval of the proposed land development by the Narragansett Improvement Company.

The Narragansett Improvement Company sued the Town of North Smithfield over the ruling on the development of the land. During a sworn deposition related to the civil suit, Meli testified under oath that he had earned a Ph.D. from the University of Massachusetts and that the resume he presented to the town prior to securing his employment was accurate and truthful. An independent archaeologist surveyed the land and disagreed with Meli's assessment, concluding that the stone mounds were most likely built for agrarian use. The investigation by the Rhode Island State Police Financial Crimes Unit revealed that Mr. Meli never earned a Ph.D. from the University of Massachusetts and that the diploma he presented had been forged.

Meli was arraigned at Third Division District Court before the Honorable Associate Judge William C. Clifton on the charges of Obtaining Money Under False Pretenses, Forgery and Perjury. He was released on $50,000 personal recognizance.

The penalty for imprisonment for a person convicted of Obtaining Money Under False Pretenses is imprisonment for not more than ten (10) years or a fine of not more than five thousand dollars ($5,000), or both.

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