Thursday, April 10
NORTH SCITUATE, R.I. (AP) — A former instructor at the University of Rhode Island has been charged with forging his credentials to get a consulting deal, then lying under oath about them.
State police said Frederick Meli, 64, of Narragansett, misrepresented himself as having a PhD from the University of Massachusetts to get hired by the town of North Smithfield in 2007 to examine whether stone mounds on a property scheduled for development were burial mounds. In fact, Meli has no such diploma, although he does have a master's degree in art history, Maj. Todd Catlow said.
Meli was quoted by several news organizations at the time of the debate over the stone mounds, including by The Associated Press, saying the mounds went back thousands of years and were used by Native Americans.
Police say he also lied about his diploma when the developer sued and he testified under oath that he had a PhD.
An independent archaeologist determined the mounds were likely built for agrarian use, police said.
Meli was arrested Wednesday on charges of obtaining money under false pretenses, forgery and perjury, then released on his own recognizance. He did not return a phone message seeking comment Thursday.
A spokeswoman for the University of Rhode Island said Meli worked there from 1997 to 2007 as an instructor paid to teach on a per course basis, teaching courses in subjects including anthropology and communications. The university opted not to rehire him in 2007, but she said she didn't immediately know why or whether he told the university he had a PhD.
"I don't have all the information at this time," she said Wednesday afternoon.