Sheriff demands cash in exchange for promotions

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A Boston Fox News undercover operation was told repeatedly by Middlesex County Sheriff’s employees that Sheriff James DiPaola demanded and received stacks of cash from employees looking for favors or promotions.

The investigation was prompted by allegations of a former high-ranking official in the department who told Fox, “As an employee, I saw numerous people that were in management level positions giving cash, giving him envelopes with cash in them. Giving him birthday cards with cash in them.” The former employee made the statement under oath.

One employee described a typical cash-raising gathering: “I’ve been to 4-5 parties. I’ve seen the money counted, $2,100 in one case, $2,300 in another, and handed to the sheriff. He’d put it in his top left hand pocket and then smoke a cigar like it was normal business.”

“You go to someone’s house. They put a party together, there’d be 20, 30, 40 people there. Everybody would give cash,” the employee said

Fox talked to nearly a dozen current and former employees, who all told the same story. They all asked for anonymity out of fear of retribution.

A number of the employees admitted to giving cash at the parties, often in the thousands of dollars. One said that two of his fellow workers, that he considers friends, each forked over more than $3,000.

When confronted by Fox, DiPaola denied ever taking any cash for personal use.  “No, I do not,” DiPaola said. “I have no idea what would motivate someone to say that.”

Besides the developing scandal over the pay-for-play cash bribe allegations, DiPaola was recently under investigation on another controversy.

After easily winning his re-election on Nov. 2, the Boston Globe reported that DiPaola was exploiting a legal loophole in the law, which allowed him to collect his sheriff’s salary and a $98,000 pension at the same time. After the pension controversy was widely reported, DiPaola resigned on Nov. 20.

He was found in a Maine hotel room six days later with a single gunshot wound through the head in an apparent suicide.

Officials say that despite DiPaola’s suicide, the case may not be over. If department officials are found to have paid for their promotions, the attorney general’s office could take legal action taken against them.

Boston Fox Undercover

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Boston ex-councilor sues to regain seat after being ousted for bribery conviction

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Ex-city councilor, Chuck Turner, who was convicted of bribery in October 2010, has filed a complaint with the U.S. District Court seeking a temporary restraining order to halt the action the city council took on Dec. 1 to remove him from office.

Turner was caught on videotape taking a $1,000 bribe from a local businessman turned FBI informant, for agreeing to help secure a liquor license. After the incident, he lied three times to the FBI about it. The sting was part of an operation targeting corrupt politicians. Turner is scheduled to be sentenced on Jan.25.

Turner’s lawyer, Chester Darling, said the city had no authority to remove him from office, and said that council members relied on a flawed reading of the law. “It was a disgrace what happened up there. They had no authority to remove him,” Darling told The Boston Herald.

The motion also seeks to halt the scheduled special election in February to fill his vacant seat.

Turner was re-elected to office in 2009 for a two year term which runs through Dec.31, 2011. The city council voted 11-1 to remove him, following his felony conviction. The expulsion was the first time in the city council’s 100 year history that anyone had been voted off the council.

Another prominent Boston politician, former state senator Diane Wilkerson, was sentenced on Thursday to 3 ½ years in prison after pleading guilty to eight counts of attempted extortion, as part of the same FBI sting. Wilkerson took $23,500 in bribes from the same FBI informant for her help in securing a liquor license and for her influence to get an approval for a real estate development project.

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Former Mass. senator sentenced to 3 ½ years for corruption

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Dianne Wilkerson, the first black woman elected to the Massachusetts Senate, was sentenced on Thursday to 3 ½ years in prison , after pleading guilty to eight counts of attempted extortion for taking $23,500 in bribes from a Boston business owner, Ronald Wilburn, who was cooperating with the FBI.

Former Mass. state senator Dianne Wilkerson was taped on eight occasions taking bribes from an FBI informant.

Wilkerson was a high profile member of the state Senate, where she served for nearly 16 years. She resigned in Oct. 2008 following her arrest on the bribery charges.

Wilkerson was infamously videotaped by FBI agents stuffing a roll of cash into her bra, on one of eight occasions that she received the bribes.  Wilkerson took the bribes in exchange for her help in securing a liquor license for a nightclub and to intercede on a property development deal.

After her sentencing, Wilkerson told the press that the government’s action against her was “the most corrupt and outrageous abuse of the justice system.” Although she said she accepted her sentence, she added “My acceptance can’t negate the despicable actions of the government and its collaborators.”

U.S. District Judge Douglas Woodlock handed down the sentence, also noting her conviction on tax evasion charges in the 1990’s and repeated violations of state campaign finance and ethics laws. Prosecutors earlier promised that they would recommend no more than four years of prison time, in exchange for the guilty plea.

The Boston Democrat said she wasn’t motivated by money and always worked hard to serve her constituents.

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Mass. commissioner of probation resigns amid corruption scandal

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State Probation Commissioner John J. O’Brien resigned abruptly on Friday, amid ongoing criminal investigations by state and federal authorities that he regularly handed out important agency jobs to reward political patrons.

O’Brien, 53, quit to avoid appearing in a termination hearing scheduled for Tuesday. His lawyer, Paul Flavin, said O’Brien was being made a scapegoat in the hiring scandal and that “numerous individuals from every branch of government make, receive and take into considerations recommendations.”

Resigned while being investigated by the FBI and Massachusetts state prosecutors for fraud, extortion and bribery

The hearing was scheduled to follow up on the investigative work by special counsel Paul F. Ware, appointed by the Supreme Judicial Court, to look into allegations of corruption in the Probation Department. Ware’s report, issued in November, provided a critical and damaging assessment that the hiring practices of the department were riddled with fraud and “systemic corruption.”

Sources said that O’Brien resigned to avoid answering questions that might incriminate him a criminal proceeding, which is almost a certainty. A federal grand jury is examining evidence and considering fraud and extortion charges. Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley, has assigned a team of prosecutors to collect evidence against O’Brien and others in the department.

During the investigation, O’Brien was subpoenaed by Ware to testify under oath about department practices, and initially agreed. Afterwards, O’Brien cancelled his appearance citing his Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination.

The report said that important jobs were handed out as rewards to campaign donors, after politicians sent letters of recommendation to O’Brian asking him to intercede on the applicant’s behalf. Thousands of phony job interviews were held to create the illusion of an open hiring process, even though jobs had been already committed to the politically connected.

O’Brien’s troubles began with a Boston Globe investigative report that on May 24 that told of pay-to-play arrangements rewarding political donors using departmental jobs, and rampant fraud throughout the organization from weak fiscal oversight. O’Brien was suspended shortly thereafter amid calls for his firing or resignation.

Three of O’Brien’s chief deputies were also suspended without pay, leaving the 2000-plus employee department with no senior management. Those executives were former chief deputy Elizabeth V. Tavares, deputy commissioner Francis M. Wall and the department’s chief lawyer, deputy commissioner Christopher J. Bulger.

The investigation claimed Tavares was “at the heart of perpetuating the sham selection process” and passed along O’Brien’s favored candidates to a hiring committee that was already told who it should hire.

The report accused Wall of collecting political campaign contributions on state time, and on state property. Bulger was accused of knowing about the hiring corruption, and not taking any action to stop it.

O’Brien was a 29-year employee of the agency, starting at the Suffolk Superior Court, and working his way up through the ranks.

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Convicted Felon Now on Boston City Council

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Update: City Councilor Chuck Turner showed up last night for the regular city council meeting, despite his conviction last week in federal court for accepting a $1,000 bribe. Turner was caught on camera taking the bribe in exchange for his help securing a liquor license, and later lying about it three times to the FBI.

Turner has repeatedly refused to resign from his office, although it may no longer be his decision once he’s sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge Douglas P. Woodcock on Jan. 25. If given prison time as expected, he could face up to 20 years in prison.

The Boston Globe

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Boston City Councilor Denies Taking Bribe Caught on Video

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Turner Caught in the Act Taking Bribe

If someone stuffed $1,000 cash in your hand while talking to them, would you be aware of it? Not necessarily so, says veteran City Councilor Charles “Chuck” Turner. In U.S. District Court in Boston, Turner’s defense team rested their case today resulting from Turner allegedly taking the bribe from a businessman-turned-FBI informant.

Turned, 70, is charged with attempted extortion and making false statements to the FBI. The exchange of cash was caught on tape, using a hidden camera, by informant Ronald Wilburn in August 2007, who was seeking the politician‘s help securing a liquor license. Turner claims he didn’t look down at what he was being handed, because doing so would be “disrespectful.” He termed the exchange a “preacher’s handshake”, not a bribe. Read more

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