BOSTON -- Former Chelsea Housing Authority Chief Michael E. McLaughlin pleaded guilty Monday in Suffolk Superior Court to charges related to illegal solicitation of campaign donations and other political activities for then-Lt. Gov. Timothy Murray and 2009 Lawrence mayoral candidate Israel Reyes.
The 68-year-old Dracut resident, who is already in prison on federal charges, pleaded guilty to state charges of unlawful solicitation by a public employee (four counts), solicitation in a public building (four counts) and conspiracy to solicit in a public building (four counts).
Judge Carol Ball sentenced McLaughlin to a year in jail, with six months to serve and the balance suspended for three years while he is on probation. The judge made McLaughlin's six-month sentence jail retroactive to September 2012 -- the date he was arraigned -- so he serves no additional time behind bars on the state charges.
State Attorney General Martha Coakely said in a statement, "McLaughlin exploited his position as head of the Chelsea Housing Authority to use the public agency as a base for political fundraising. This conduct violates campaign-finance law and undermines the public's trust.''
In a sentencing memorandum, the state writes that McLaughlin, as the CHA head overseeing 30 employees, used his "inherently coercive power of that authority ... (to) repeatedly pressure employees to make substantial political campaigns to candidates favored by him.
McLaughlin also allegedly exploited people who provided legal and accounting services to the CHA by repeatedly seeking political contributions.
McLaughlin solicited CHA employees to attend three Murray fundraisers. He also allegedly asked a CHA employee to collect contributions and distribute invitations to fundraisers.
Prosecutors say CHA employees were asked for $100 in cash as contributions. The money was allegedly collected and delivered to McLaughlin with a list of the contributors.
CHA workers were allegedly asked by McLaughlin to perform political duties for Murray and Reyes, including holding campaign signs, the state says.
In U.S. District Court on Friday, McLaughlin also resolved the last of the federal charges against him.
McLaughlin, who is already serving a three-year federal prison sentence for falsifying records to conceal his inflated $360,000 executive director's salary, was ordered by U.S. District Court Judge Douglas P. Woodlock to serve an additional year in prison and pay a $3,000 fine for his role rigging the inspection process for Chelsea's federally-funded housing units.
In May, he pleaded guilty to defrauding the United States and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development by impairing, impeding and defeating the proper operation of HUD's physical-condition assessment.
From 2006 through November 2011, McLaughlin conspired with his Assistant Director, James Fitzpatrick, and Bernard Morosco, whom they hired as a consultant for the REAC inspection process in those years.
Morosco, a certified REAC inspector who had access to the secure REAC database, identified in advance the units of the CHA that would be randomly selected to be inspected by the assigned HUD REAC inspector on the day of the inspection. In general, federal regulations demand that the units within a public housing authority must meet standard conditions that are "decent, safe, sanitary and in good repair.''
Morosco then provided to McLaughlin and Fitzpatrick a list of those units to be inspected sufficiently in advance of the inspection so that they could organize and direct REAC "SWAT" Teams of CHA employees to concentrate on ensuring that any needed repairs would be made to those identified units.
When the REAC inspectors conducted the inspections in 2007, 2009 and 2011, the units that were randomly selected were the same as the ones provided in advance by Morosco.
The trial of Fitzpatrick and Morosco has yet to be scheduled.
In court filings, two tenants, part of the Chelsea Collaborative, described living in intolerable conditions with broken windows, rats, roaches and insufficient heat and water. They testified McLaughlin used CHA money that should have gone toward repairs and improvements to line his own pockets.
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