For Immediate Release - October 15, 2009

Former Register of Probate Buonomo Pleads Guilty to Theft of Public Monies, Campaign Funds

WOBURN - The former Middlesex County Register of Probate has pleaded guilty to two separate schemes in which he stole thousands in taxpayer money and more than $100,000 in campaign funds, Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley and Middlesex District Attorney Gerry Leone announced today.

John R. Buonomo, 57, of Newton, pleaded guilty today in Woburn Superior Court to charges brought in separate cases by the Attorney General's Office and the Middlesex District Attorney's Office. Sentencing has been scheduled for November 9 at 2 p.m.

The charges that he pleaded guilty to in connection with the theft of campaign funds were:

  • Larceny over $250 (2 counts),
  • Personal Use of Campaign Funds (2 counts)
  • Willfully Misleading Investigators

The charges that he pleaded guilty to in connection with the theft of public monies were:

  • Breaking and entering into a depository with intent to commit a larceny (18 counts)
  • Theft of public property by a city/town/county officer (eight counts)
  • Larceny under $250 (eight counts)

"It is troubling that this elected official would violate the trust bestowed in him by committing these brazen thefts - crimes that he has now admitted to with today's plea," District Attorney Leone said. "I want to thank the Secretary of State's Office, the Registry of Deeds, the Trial Court, and the Chief Justice for Administration and Management for their cooperation during this investigation. I also want to commend the members of our PACT Unit for their comprehensive investigation, including the installation of surveillance cameras to capture the crimes committed on tape, that built the irrefutable proof that led to this plea."

Buonomo engaged in two separate schemes that resulted in the theft of public monies and campaign funds. An outline of both schemes follows:

Theft of public monies

On August 6, 2008, Buonomo was arrested by State Police assigned to the Middlesex District Attorney's PACT Unit. Buonomo, a then county-wide elected official, had engaged in a repeated pattern of stealing cash from copy and money machines at the Office of the Register of Deeds over a period of weeks. Video surveillance cameras installed by the PACT Unit captured the defendant engaged in these acts numerous times during the months of June, July, and August. The Register of Deeds office is located in the same building as the Register of Probate office.

Buonomo resigned from his position as Register of Probate on September 7, 2008.

The investigation began in June 2008 when information was obtained regarding the suspected ongoing theft of monies from numerous copy machines and cash machines within the Registry of Deeds, located at 208 Cambridge Street in Cambridge. The Registry of Deeds had noticed monthly shortages in receipts received from their copy machines estimated to be as much as thousands of dollars over a period of months.

Based on this and other information obtained during a subsequent investigation, the PACT Unit installed video surveillance equipment in the second floor and basement areas of the Registry of Deeds office. During the following weeks, usually at the end of the work day, Buonomo was regularly observed on video accessing the money machines in the basement and second floor of the Registry of Deeds. He was often captured on video removing a stack of dollar bills, counting the money, and then returning a portion of those bills to the machine while pocketing the rest.

Buonomo pleaded guilty to taking cash for himself on at least eight of those occasions. Buonomo had no authority to access the cash machines or copy machines on the Registry of Deeds side of the building nor did he have the authority to remove money from the machines.

After his arrest, Buonomo was arraigned in Cambridge District Court on August 7, 2008, where he pleaded not guilty and was released on personal recognizance. Buonomo was indicted by a Middlesex Superior Grand Jury in connection with these thefts on September 30, 2008, and arraigned in Woburn Superior Court on November 4, 2008, at which point he was released on personal recognizance.

Theft of Campaign Committee Funds

On March 31, 2009, the Attorney General's Office sought and obtained indictments from a Middlesex Grand Jury in connection with Buonomo's theft of more than $100,000 in funds from his campaign committee and using those funds for his own personal use.

In that case, the Office of Campaign and Political Finance (OCPF) began an investigation into suspected violations of campaign finance laws by Buonomo in April 2008. In November 2008, OCPF referred the matter to the Attorney General's Office for enforcement.

The extensive investigation by OCPF revealed that on various dates between December 2004 and July 2008, Buonomo withdrew funds from the Committee to Elect John Buonomo for his personal use. Buonomo allegedly stole these funds using two methods. First, investigators discovered that Buonomo wrote checks to himself from the Committee's account, falsely stating on the checks that he was reimbursing himself for postage he had bought with cash. Second, investigators discovered that Buonomo also stole funds from his campaign account by writing checks from the Committee to a local printing company for fictitious print jobs. Authorities believe that Buonomo wanted to make it appear as though the printing company was printing materials for the campaign, when in actuality these services were never rendered.

During the course of their initial investigation, OCPF found that Buonomo submitted to OCPF forged and altered bank records, forged and altered printing invoices, as well as false written statements he had obtained from postal employees. Investigators believe this was an effort by Buonomo to mislead OCPF and to justify the taking of funds from his Committee.

On April 22, 2009, Buonomo was arraigned on the charges in connection with the campaign committee funds. He pleaded not guilty and was released on personal recognizance.

The case brought by the Attorney General's Office was prosecuted by Assistant Attorney General Marc Jones of Attorney General Martha Coakley's Corruption and Fraud Division, with assistance from Financial Investigator Jessie Julian Dean and Massachusetts State Police assigned to the Attorney General's Office. Sarah Hartry, Legal Counsel for the Office of Campaign and Political Finance also investigated and assisted with this case.

The case brought by Middlesex District Attorney Gerry Leone's Office was prosecuted by John Verner, Chief of the District Attorney's PACT Unit. It was investigated by the Massachusetts State Police assigned to the Middlesex District Attorney's PACT Unit.