The Rhode Island Sup. Ct., last month, reinstated the license to practice law of Arthur Coia, who was forced to resign as boss of the Laborers Intl. Union of N. Amer. (LIUNA) in 1999. Thus, the man who was repeatedly accused of ties to organized crime by the U.S. Dept. of Justice, and pled guilty to tax evasion, has now come full circle. He has retained his $250,000 salary as “general president emeritus” of LIUNA, and is free again to practice law in RI.
Coia pled guilty on Jan. 31, 2000, to defrauding RI taxpayers of nearly $100,000 in taxes on three Ferraris he purchased from the vendor supplying vehicles to LIUNA executives. In one instance, Coia paid $215,000 for a vintage car, but used an invoice claiming that the price was only $2,160. Under a sweetheart deal negotiated with the Clinton-Reno justice dept., Coia resigned from all positions in the LIUNA hierarchy, and agreed to a two-year suspension of his law license. But Coia could have permanently disbarred, and by being given the emeritus title, he retained his full union salary.
To get his license back, Coia got the help of Francis J. Larkin, Chancellor of the Southern New England School of Law, who tutored Coia to keep him informed of new court decisions and developments in different branches of the law. Larkin also assigned a faculty member teaching “professional responsibility” to personally prepare Coia for a test on legal ethics, which he had to pass to regain his license.
Coia is listed as practicing from the firm of Coia & Lepore in Providence, but currently resides in Delray Beach, Fla. [Providence Journal-Bulletin 2/20/03]