BOSTON -- Former Chelsea Housing Authority Director Michael McLaughlin, of Dracut, is facing up to 80 years in prison and fines of $1 million since he was charged in federal court with four counts of falsifying records about his salary in Chelsea.

U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz announced Wednesday afternoon that McLaughlin was charged in U.S. District Court in Boston with falsely stating the amount of his annual salary in records and budgets filed with the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development.

McLaughlin has not been indicted, but was charged with four counts of falsifying a record in a federal agency matter with intent to impede and obstruct that matter.

Ortiz, in a prepared statement, said McLaughlin reported his 2008 annual salary was $151,945, when he knew his actual salary was at least $242,908.

"It is further alleged that McLaughlin made the same kind of concealment of his rising salary in the ensuing three years," Ortiz said in a prepared statement.

The scheme became public knowledge in late 2011.

In that year, McLaughlin reported his annual salary was $160,415, even though it was actually at least $283,471, with his total compensation reaching $324,896 due to other factors.

McLaughlin faces up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000 on each of the four counts.

It was not immediately clear when McLaughlin will make an initial appearance in federal court.

He resigned in late 2011 after the details of his salary were revealed.

The scandal led Gov. Deval Patrick to recommend changes to housing authorities across the state, and raised questions about Lt. Gov. Timothy Murray's ties to McLaughlin. Murray, who had seriously considered running for governor, last week announced he would not be a candidate.

McLaughlin has also had long ties to politics in Greater Lowell, and is a former director of the Lowell Housing Authority. He is also a past business director of the Dracut School Department.

For more on this story, see Thursday's Sun or visit http://www.lowellsun.com.