Former Chelsea Housing Authority Director Pleads Guilty, Sentenced in Connection with Unlawfully Soliciting Campaign Contributions From State Employees
BOSTON – The former executive director of the Chelsea Housing Authority (CHA) has pleaded guilty and been sentenced in connection with unlawfully soliciting contributions from state employees and other individuals to support multiple campaigns, Attorney General Martha Coakley announced today.
“McLaughlin exploited his position as head of the Chelsea Housing Authority to use the public agency as a base for political fundraising,” said AG Coakley. “This conduct violates campaign finance law and undermines the public’s trust.”
Michael McLaughlin, age 68, of Dracut, pleaded guilty today in Suffolk Superior Court to charges of Unlawful Solicitation by a Public Employee (4 counts), Solicitation in a Public Building (4 counts), and Conspiracy to Solicit in a Public Building (4 counts).
After the plea was entered, Superior Court Judge Carol Ball sentenced McLaughlin to one year in the House of Correction, with six months to serve and the balance suspended for a probationary period of three years. His sentence is retroactive to when he was arraigned in September 2013.
On Friday, McLaughlin pleaded guilty to federal charges that he and two other men conspired to rig inspections of federally-funded housing units run by the CHA. He was sentenced to one year in federal prison, to be served after he completes a three year sentence he is currently serving after pleading guilty in February 2013 to federal charges related to underreporting his income. On Friday, he was also ordered to pay a $3,000 fine.
The charges against McLaughlin stem from an initial investigation by the Office of Campaign and Political Finance (OCPF), which referred the case to the AG’s Office for further investigation. In 2012, the AG’s Office began an investigation into allegations of campaign finance violations concerning McLaughlin. McLaughlin served as Executive Director of CHA from 2000 until the fall of 2011.
From approximately 2008 through 2010, McLaughlin directed a CHA employee to seek contributions from fellow CHA employees, and others associated with the CHA, to benefit the Citizens Committee to Elect Tim Murray (Murray Committee). McLaughlin would identify specific CHA employees to be asked to contribute and employees understood that the contribution request was ultimately coming from McLaughlin to support a candidate favored by him.
McLaughlin organized and solicited CHA employees, and others associated with the CHA, to attend three Murray Committee fundraisers held in Methuen between 2008 and 2010. The CHA employee, directed by McLaughlin, collected political contributions for the benefit of the Murray Committee before each of the fundraisers, and distributed Murray Committee invitations to employees upon receiving their contributions. Employees were typically asked for $100 contributions, and cash was often the preferred method of contributing. In addition to CHA employees, McLaughlin also solicited contributions for each of the fundraisers from numerous other individuals among his personal and professional networks.
All monies collected from CHA employees were then delivered to McLaughlin, with a list of those who contributed.
McLaughlin also solicited CHA employees to contribute to Israel Reyes’ campaign, a 2009 Lawrence mayoral candidate.
Further, McLaughlin regularly asked CHA employees, and others associated with the CHA, to perform political work for the Murray Committee and Reyes, including holding signs, working at the polls, and other organizational tasks.
The case was prosecuted by Assistant Attorney General Edward Beagan and Assistant Attorney General Jessica Massey on behalf of the Public Integrity Division. Today’s hearing was handled by Assistant Attorney General Dean Mazzone, Senior Trial Counsel in the AG’s Criminal Bureau and AAG Massey. This case was investigated by Marco DePalma of the AG’s Financial Investigations Division, with assistance from the Massachusetts State Police assigned to the AG’s Office and the AG’s Digital Evidence Lab. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development – Office of the Inspector General, the Massachusetts Inspector General’s Office, the Massachusetts Office of Campaign and Political Finance, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation also assisted in this case.
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