As part of our mission to detect fraud, waste and abuse the Office of the Inspector General conducts civil and criminal investigations. Many of these cases lead to prosecution or are referred to different agencies for further action. Other cases or reviews have resulted in cost recovery for the Commonwealth. Recent cases are highlighted below.
Recent Investigation Outcomes
Bill Increasing Penalties for Fraud or Misuse of Disabled Persons’ Parking Placards Signed Into Law
On November 22, 2017, Gov. Charlie Baker signed legislation, Chapter 137 of the Acts of 2017, increasing the penalties for the fraudulent use of disabled persons’ parking placards and enhancing the ability of the Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV) to prevent ineligible people from receiving or using the placards.
The legislation, filed by State Senator Eileen Donoghue, increased fines, lengthened license suspensions and established criminal penalties for various fraudulent uses of handicapped placards. Donoghue’s bill was modeled on legislation the Office of the Inspector General filed in November 2016, with input and support from the RMV’s Disability Placard Abuse Task Force.
The OIG has conducted several investigations of handicapped placard abuse in downtown Boston during the past 15 years. The investigations found numerous cases of people obscuring or altering a placard’s expiration date, people who did not have a medical need applying for and receiving placards, and individuals using placards issued to other people, including people who had died. A car displaying a disabled persons’ placard can park at a parking meter without paying or observing posted time limits. In all of its investigations, the OIG consistently found individuals illegally using other people’s placards to avoid paying for parking, which can cost $40 or more per day in downtown Boston. The newly enacted legislation:
- Imposes criminal penalties for forging, counterfeiting or stealing a placard.
- Prohibits using a deceased person’s placard, imposing a $500 fine for first-time violators and a $1,000 fine for a second violation.
- Increases the driver’s license suspension for a person wrongfully displaying a placard to 60 days for a first offense and 120 days for a second offense. Prior to enactment, first-time violators’ faced a 30-day suspension and those caught a second time received a 90-day suspension.
- Imposes a $50 fine on individuals obstructing the number or expiration date of a placard.
- Allows the RMV to request additional documentation or information from an applicant to support the medical necessity for a placard.
Members of the RMV Disability Placard Abuse Task Force supported the legislation because it will make handicapped parking more available to those who need it. It is also expected to increase parking revenue for cities and towns by deterring people from wrongfully using a placard.
- Inspector General Testimony on House 14-An Act Relative to Disability Placards, June 2017 (pdf)
- The Abuse of Disabled Parking Placards in Massachusetts, February 2016 (pdf)
- The Abuse of Disabled Persons Parking Placards: A Multi-Agency Investigation, November 2013 (pdf)
Court awards OIG whistleblower over $523,000, including attorney fees, under state whistleblower law
A Superior Court judge has ordered the Town of Newbury to pay over $523,000, including attorney fees, to a former employee who was subject to retaliation for filing a complaint with the OIG. In his ruling, the judge found that the plaintiff had engaged in protected whistleblower activity when he reported alleged violations of state law to the OIG.
The OIG investigated the complaint and issued a report in 2011. The report documented improper activities and conflicts of interest in awarding moorings in Newbury. The report can be found at Assignment of Moorings to Private Businesses in Newbury, Massachusetts (pdf).
Former Treasurer of South Royalston Nonprofit Indicted
A Worcester County grand jury indicted Vickie Paine, the former treasurer of the South Royalston Improvement Corporation (SRIC), on September 21, alleging that she stole over $30,000 in funds. Ms. Paine is charged with one count of larceny and one count of false entry in corporate books.
SRIC is a nonprofit entity that manages the water supply for the residents of South Royalston. SRIC collects water fees from residents to pay for the operation, maintenance and testing of the town’s water supply. Ms. Paine, 55, of Wayland, was the treasurer of SRIC until December 2013. As treasurer, she was responsible for collecting water fees and paying vendors.
During its investigation, the Office of the Inspector General found evidence that between 2009 and 2014, Ms. Paine withdrew approximately $30,000 from SRIC’s bank accounts for her own use. Investigators further found evidence that Ms. Paine obtained the funds through the following methods:
- Cash withdrawals
- Transferring money from SRIC’s accounts to Ms. Paine’s personal account
- Writing checks payable to cash, which Ms. Paine then signed and cashed
Investigators also allege that upon Ms. Paine’s resignation from SRIC, she left corporate records that showed numerous entries of payments to certain vendors. Investigators allege that the vendors did not receive those payments and found that the checks were instead written to cash and negotiated by Ms. Paine.
The charges against Ms. Paine are allegations and Ms. Paine is presumed innocent until proven guilty.
The case is being prosecuted by the Attorney General’s Office. For additional information about the indictment, see the Attorney General’s press release at: Former Treasurer at Nonprofit Indicted in Connection with Stealing $30,000.
Westport Trash Hauler Sentenced for Defrauding Fall River Landfill
The co-owner of a Westport-based trash hauling company was sentenced on September 5 to federal prison for defrauding the operator of the Fall River Landfill out of more than $460,000.
Stephen P. Aguiar, Jr., 47, of Westport, was sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge F. Dennis Saylor IV to serve one year and one day in federal prison. Judge Saylor also sentenced Mr. Aguiar to two years of supervised release and ordered him to pay restitution in the amount of $463,407.
Mr. Aguiar is one of the owners and operators of Cleanway Disposal & Recycling, Inc., a trash removal and recycling company, and JS Aguiar Enterprises, Inc., a construction and equipment rental property. Under Mr. Aguiar’s contracts with the company operating the Fall River Landfill, he paid different rates to dispose of trash at the landfill depending on where the trash originated. Mr. Aguiar paid one rate to dump trash collected from his private clients located in Fall River and a higher rate to dispose of trash collected from his private clients located outside of Fall River. Mr. Aguiar also had a contract to collect trash from the Fall River Housing Authority (FRHA) and dispose of the trash at the city’s landfill. The company operating the landfill allowed the City of Fall River to dispose of trash collected from the FRHA at no charge.
Mr. Aguiar admitted that between 2009 and 2014, he misrepresented the source of a significant portion of the trash he disposed of at the landfill, claiming that the trash was from the FRHA when it was actually from his private clients. Mr. Aguiar’s misrepresentations allowed him to avoid paying a fee to deposit his private clients’ trash at the Fall River Landfill, thereby defrauding the landfill of approximately $463,000 in revenue.
In April 2017, Mr. Aguiar pleaded guilty to three counts of mail fraud after a joint investigation by the Massachusetts Office of the Inspector General, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Office of the Inspector General. The case was prosecuted by the United States Attorney’s Office.
For additional information about Aguiar’s sentencing, see the U.S. Attorney’s Office's press release at: Co-Owner of Trash Company Sentenced for Fraud.
OIG Joint Investigation Leads to Indictments of MBTA Procurement Official and Construction Contractor, March 2017
Hotline Call to OIG Results in Assembly Square Station Contractors Paying More Than $420,000 for Submitting False Claims to the MBTA, February 2017 (pdf)
OIG Joint Investigation Results in Charges Against Former Blandford Tax Collector, January 2017 (pdf)