This Month in Corruption: Two Ex-Cops to Gain New Perspective on Iron Bars

Thursday, November 30, 2017

The Embezzler.  On November 14, Glenn P. Pearson, a former sergeant on the Whitman police force, was sentenced (a) in connection with the misappropriation of funds from the accounts of disabled veterans while serving as a fiduciary appointed by the federal Department of Veterans Affairs, and (b) for the preparation of false income tax returns for clients of his tax preparation business.

U.S. District Court Chief Judge Patti B. Saris sentenced Pearson, 62, to four years in prison and three years of supervised released.  She also ordered him to pay $252,992 in restitution to the VA and $826,865 in restitution to the Internal Revenue Service. 
Back in May, Pearson had pleaded guilty to wire fraud, misappropriation by a federal fiduciary, preparation of fraudulent tax returns, and obstruction of the IRS.

The Extortionist.  On November 17, John R. DeSantis, a former Lawrence police officer, was sentenced in connection with an attempt to use his position to extort cocaine from a drug trafficker. 
U.S. District Court Judge F. Dennis Saylor, IV, sentenced Methuen resident DeSantis, 45, to 18 months in prison and two years of supervised release.

Back in August, DeSantis had agreed to plead guilty to one count of extortion and attempted extortion under color of official right and through the use of threatened force and fear.

NOTE: Above information derived from press releases issued by Office of Acting Massachusetts U.S. Attorney William D. Weinreb.

Senate Republicans Don't Notice or Don't Care What Baker Thinks of Their Tax Bill

Ten days ago, late on the afternoon of November 20, I printed out a State House News Service article headlined, “Mass. Middle Class May Take ‘Biggest Hit’ Under Federal Tax Reform, Baker Says.” 

It concerned an appearance earlier that day by Governor Charlie Baker on WGBH’s “Boston Public Radio” show, which is hosted by Jim Braude and Margery Eagan and airs Monday through Friday, 12:00 to 2:00 P.M.  Once a month, there’s an “Ask the Governor” segment, with Baker speaking and answering questions the entire two hours.
The article rested atop a pile on my desk until this morning, when I picked it up, read it again, and shook my head, marveling anew at how strange this time of the Trump ascendancy in U.S. politics is.

Here we have a popular Republican governor, Charlie Baker, telling the world that his feelings on a major component of Republican tax reform legislation are the same as those of Elizabeth Warren, a liberal Democrat member of the U.S. Senate loathed by multitudes within the GOP.
And here we have a Republican majority in the U.S. Senate that does not give a fig that GOP moderates like Baker are worried sick about how that legislation will affect their states and are rushing head-over-heals to pass a tax reform bill -- possibly as soon as today or tomorrow. 

“If you really want to do something for the middle class, this is not it, because the middle class – in Massachusetts – will probably take the biggest hit,” Baker told Braude and Eagan on November 20.  “This is just a big shift, as you point out Jim, to the haves, at the expense in many cases of working people and the have-nots.  And I don’t support that.”
Baker also said:

“There are all kinds of things in this bill that will just make life for middle-class families in Massachusetts dramatically more expensive. And one of the things that Senator Warren said about this that I thought was spot on was she said, before we start taking things away from middle class families to support tax cuts for big corporations, we should be talking about what we’re going to do to make life easier for middle class families first.  And I agree completely with her on that point.”

The national press is reporting today that several Republican senators -- including Susan Collins of Maine -- who were on the fence about tax reform, are coming around after lunching with Trump the other day and receiving verbal assurances from the president that their concerns would be addressed in various ways.
Collins has not yet firmly committed herself to the bill, the New York Times said, “but is more optimistic after the lunch.”  The Times quoted her as saying, “I believe that a lot of my concerns, it appears, are going to be addressed and that I’m going to be getting the opportunity to offer amendments on the Senate floor.”

In his November 20 interview with Braude and Eagan, Governor Baker happened to mention that he communicates regularly with Senator Collins in Washington.  Said Baker, “I talk to Susan Collins quite a bit about a lot of stuff that’s going on down there, A) because she represents New England, and B) because she’s somebody I’ve known for a long time and I can have a conversation with.”
I have this wild hope. Senator Collins is on the Senate floor. In a few minutes, she’s going to have to cast her final vote on tax reform.  Standing by her desk, she closes her eyes, puts her fingers to her chin and silently asks, “Who am I going to believe, Charlie Baker or Donald Trump?”

FOOTNOTE: In a statement late this morning to the State House News, House Speaker Robert DeLeo expressed "deep concern" about the GOP tax plan.  "I thank our congressional delegation for its advocacy against this ill-conceived legislation, which is built on specious economic arguments.  It is abundantly clear that the plan would be detrimental to hardworking residents of many backgrounds and income levels.  Additionally, it would negatively impact the Commonwealth's fiscal health, which would have sweeping ramifications on our ability to provide both essential services and programs that have given Massachusetts a competitive edge."  DeLeo said he was "particularly concerned" about the state's colleges, universities and research institutions.  "In addition to the short-term economic losses for Massachusetts, these cuts would stymie the nation's preeminent role in innovation and discovery.  That's not a loss we can afford, financially or for the morale of this country." 

 

 

Dems Needed to Fully Exploit Neal's Slow-Walk Response to Tax Reform

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Springfield’s Richie Neal clearly saw what the Republicans in the U.S. House were up to with their shock and awe approach to tax reform.

The ranking Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee, Neal sent a letter on November 1 to the chairman of the committee, Kevin Brady of Texas, urging him “in the strongest possible terms to slow this tax reform process to a pace that will allow for reasonable, informed deliberations.”
Neal, a former high school history teacher who has represented the First Massachusetts District in the House since 1989, reminded Brady that the last time a major federal tax reform bill was enacted, in 1986, the full Ways and Means Committee held 30 separate public hearings and the subcommittees of Ways and Means held 12 hearings before the bill was voted on.  Neal pointed out that “more than 450 witnesses testified” in Congress before the bill was put to a vote.

“…it would be reckless in the extreme to rush this process through committee next week,” Neal wrote.  “…let’s slow down and get this right – the stakes are too high to bow to self-imposed deadlines and procedural gimmickry.  It is better to do this right than to do it fast.”
Sixteen days after Brady received Neal’s letter, the House passed the tax reform bill, all 400-plus pages of it, without having held a single hearing on it.

Yesterday, eleven days after tax reform passed in the House, a key Senate panel approved a tax reform bill and set the stage for a vote on it by the full Senate next week.  The Republican leadership in the Senate is increasingly confident of enacting a bill next week and then quickly reconciling the differences between the House and Senate versions of tax reform.  The federal tax code could be completely changed by mid-December.
For four weeks now, there’s been so much arguing and so much noise about what the multiple big components of the Republican tax reform plan would do or not do that the GOP strategy of legislative blitzkrieg hasn’t received nearly the attention it should.

The Democrats should have followed Neal’s lead and made the Republican rush to enactment, so unseemly and suspicious on its face, THE issue.  They should have kept it simple. Their every-day/all-day messaging should have been as short and understandable as one, two, three: 
ONE, we are boycotting the entire legislative process on tax reform until the Republicans agree to provide the American people with enough time to find out what’s in this bill and to make their views on it known to their representatives and senators in Washington.

TWO, we do not seek an open-ended process; rather, we are prepared to commit to a six-month period for review and voting on tax reform.  For a bill that will affect every citizen and enterprise in our country, half a year is not too short and not too long to get it right.
THREE, we beg our fellow Americans: Do not spend even one minute a day thinking about the president’s latest tweet and the hullaballoo that inevitably follows. He’s the guy on the crowded subway platform who distracts you while his accomplice picks your pocket. Take a minute instead every day to phone a different member of the Congress and tell him or her to stop this needless and dangerous dash to tax reform.

The Republicans adopted one of the oldest and best strategies in the world. More than two thousand years ago, Sun Tzu said that “speed is the essence of war.” 
You have to hand it to House Speaker Ryan and Senate Majority Leader McConnell.  They knew from the beginning that the contents of this gigantic bill could not stand the test of time and acted accordingly.  But did they know that Democrats would hand them an enormous advantage by failing to respond with an obvious (and consistent) counter-strategy?

In war, Sun Tzu said, you must “first attack the enemy’s strategy.”  [This is something Bill Belichick has perfected on his way to five Super Bowl victories: from the kickoff on, he is focused on preventing the opposing coach and team from executing what they do best.]
The Democrats did not first mount an effective attack on the Republican strategy of speed above all else, nor have they adhered to any other simple, coherent and memorable mode of attack.   

I have heard, seen and read a lot of stuff about why the Republican tax reform agenda is bad and deserving of defeat, but nothing quite so good and succinct as several lines from an online comment at the bottom of a Paul Krugman column in the New York Times, “Lies, Incoherence and Rage on Tax,” 11-20-17.  The commenter was Mike Iker of Mill Valley, California, who wrote, in part:
“What’s not to like in the GOP tax plan?  It will further enrich the ultra-wealthy.  It will lead to federal deficits that will not only justify but compel cuts to Medicaid, Medicare and ultimately Social Security.  It will damage post-graduate education by making grad students pay taxes on tuition waivers, money they never received with money they don’t have.  It will directly attack the endowments of our better universities with an excise tax on the donations they receive, despite their non-profit status.  It will exacerbate the already existing transfer of wealth from the Blue States and their often successful Democrat citizens to the unsuccessful GOP takers in the Red States.  It will further the dynastic ambitions of families with last names like Trump and Koch and other would-be oligarchs.  So, what’s not to like?  Maybe the future of the American dream.”

 

 

Not for the Birds, I Hope: a Thanksgiving-Themed Blogster's Miscellany

Wednesday, November 22, 2017


I’m Thankful I Don’t Have to Drive. More Americans are travelling on Thanksgiving than any other holiday, and man is it ever dangerous out there.  Last year at this time, six persons were killed in road accidents in Massachusetts.  Hundreds of persons were likely hurt in crashes that extra-long weekend, some no doubt seriously and/or permanently.  According to figures cited yesterday by the office of our governor, roadway fatalities rose overall in 2016 by 12.8 percent, to 389 from 345 in 2015. Alcohol-related driving deaths increased by 9.2 percent, to 119 from 109 in 2015.  Wow: We had an average of slightly more than one death every day in traffic accidents in 2016. 

I'm also Thankful that...

My Co-Workers Play it Safe. I’m thankful that no one I currently work with in the Boston office of Preti bicycles to work or uses one of those easy-rental bikes that we see all over to get from one in-city meeting to the next.  A lot has been done to make Boston and the metropolitan area more bike-friendly and more bike-safe. But when I’m walking the sidewalks of our congested capital’s streets, filled as they are with cars, tall trucks, long trucks, construction vehicles, tour buses and duck boats, I cringe each time I see someone in a business suit pedal blithely by, like a junior high football player who has blundered, McGoo-like,  into an NFL game.  The latest bicyclist fatality data I could find was for 2015, from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.  It showed that there were nine bicyclists killed on Massachusetts roads that year, including three in Boston. I agree with a gentleman from Walpole, Stephen R. Tarbell, who wrote as follows in a letter to the editor  of The Boston Globe on October 13, 2016: “I don’t want to die…and I certainly don’t want to kill anyone.  That’s why I don’t play on railroad tracks, or play chicken with oncoming traffic.  It’s why I always wear a seat belt and look both ways before crossing the street.  It’s why I would never point a gun at anyone else or play Russian roulette.  It’s also why I would never consider riding a bike in Boston and think people who do are crazy.”

Shrinks Will Flout the ‘Goldwater Rule.’  Speaking of accidents, our Electorally-gifted President continues to be dogged by Ed Markey, our state’s junior U.S. senator, and many other Democrats in the Congress who want to legally limit Donald Trump’s ability to launch a nuclear attack on North Korea.  Last month, they introduced “The No Unconditional Strike Against North Korea Act,” which would prohibit the spending needed to fund such a strike.  “As long as President Trump has a Twitter account,” says Markey, “we must ensure that he cannot start a war or launch a nuclear first strike without the explicit authorization of Congress.  It is time for the legislative body to act and reassert its constitutional role as the branch of government with the sole power to decide when the United States goes on the offensive.”  It’s not just Dems in D.C. who are worried about Trump having the man with the football at his beck and call.  This is giving some mental health professionals, gasp, nightmares.  The other day in Salon, I read a description by a psychologist of Trump as a “malignant narcissist.”  There has never been a malignant narcissist who got to be in charge of a country who did not start a war, this psychologist warned.

Our Governor Is Kindly and Fair.  After the North End Columbus Day Celebration Committee bestowed its public service award last month on former North End legislator and House Speaker Sal DiMasi, Governor Charlie Baker was asked by a reporter if it was appropriate for the group to honor DiMasi in light of his 2011 conviction on federal fraud and conspiracy charges, and his subsequent multi-year imprisonment.  Baker cited DiMasi’s work in helping to pass the state’s universal health coverage law in 2006 as one valid reason for anyone to pay homage to Sal.  Here’s the operative Baker quote from the State House News Service: “First of all, the Massachusetts health care law, which has been a big success here in the Commonwealth, is something that the former speaker had a lot to do with.”  Amen.  Baker also noted that “Who people choose to give awards to, that’s kind of up to them.”  As of today, November 22, DiMasi has been out of prison for one year.  He was released on this date in 2016 on compassionate grounds because of poor health, and now resides with his devoted wife, Debbie, in an apartment in Melrose.  I live in Melrose but haven’t yet encountered DiMasi.  If I do, I’ll shake his hand and wish him well.  He made a big mistake, paid a big price, and deserves forgiveness.  There has to be mercy/forgiveness in this world.  Some who have seen him on the sidewalks and in the stores and restaurants tell me he’s gained weight and strength, and is in good spirits, an extrovert as always.  Sal DiMasi is now 72 years old.  

Lawmakers Have a Sense of Humor.  There’s some opposition to a bill pending in the legislature that would create a statewide septic license for anyone who installs and/or repairs septic systems for the disposal of human waste, House Bill 146, An Act to Create a Statewide Septic License.  During a hearing on the bill early last month, some who work in the business told the members of the Joint Committee on Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure that  they are worried the bill could be applied to other septic-system-related tasks, thereby making it harder to find the workers needed to drive pumping trucks and perform other icky tasks.  “It’s just not an appetizing job,” one septic pro said.  According to a State House News Service account of the hearing, the only member of the committee who asked a question of the H.146 witnesses was Rep. Stephen Howitt, R-Seekonk.  Said he, “Does a straight flush beat a full house?”

 

 

Incoming Mayor Was in Good Position to Laugh as GOP Took Aim, and then...

Friday, November 17, 2017

PREFATORY NOTE: I have the timing of a clumsy brother disowned by a family of trapeze artists.  Not one hour after I put up this post, word came from the State House that the main character in this story had, after all, decided to resign from the House of Representatives.

Paul Heroux, the Democrat state representative in the 2nd Bristol District, was elected the next mayor of Attleboro on Tuesday, November 7, ousting a 14-year incumbent, Kevin Dumas, by a margin of 54% to 46% -- what you call a strong showing.  Ever since, Heroux’s been fending off attacks from Republicans who object to his continuing to serve in the House through 2018 while also holding down the mayor’s job, as Heroux has long said he intended to do.  The people of Attleboro knew this before the election.

“I think it’s incredibly insulting, to the voters and to the mayors and to the legislators who take their job as a full-time job seriously, that he would even consider this,” Governor Charlie Baker has said of Heroux.
House Minority Leader Brad Jones announced this past Tuesday that he and his Republican colleagues will soon file a bill that, if enacted, would force Heroux to choose between serving either as Attleboro’s state rep or its mayor.

Jones and other members of the GOP have been citing what happened in November of 2009, when Democrats filed a bill that would have prohibited anyone from serving simultaneously in the legislature and in the chief executive position of a city or town.  The bill was aimed at William Lantigua, a Democrat rep who had just been elected mayor of the City of Lawrence and was planning to hold both jobs through 2010. 

Many of Lantigua’s fellow Democrats did not like or trust him.  Due to his, uh, “controversial” ways, they felt “Willy” made the rest of them look bad. They wanted him and his sketchy reputation gone from Beacon Hill.  Lantigua ended up relinquishing his House seat before the bill against him was acted upon.  He saw the handwriting on the wall.
Republicans are also pointing to state Senator Tom McGee as someone in the same situation they feel is doing the right thing.  Right after McGee won the November 7 mayoral election in the City of Lynn, he announced his resignation from the Senate, effective January 2, 2018.

Today, New England’s largest newspaper, The Boston Globe, published an editorial urging Heroux not to hold both positions.  The editorial was headlined, “Mayor or state rep – Heroux should do one job or the other, not both.”  Just because it’s legal in Massachusetts to serve in some dual offices simultaneously, the Globe huffed, doesn’t mean someone should.
Heroux, age 41, has termed the Republican initiative to drive him from the House “laughable.”  As long as his fellow Democrats keep standing firmly behind him, which they’ve quietly been doing, he can keep laughing.

House Speaker Robert DeLeo is on record as preferring to leave the decision on holding both jobs entirely up to Heroux.  Questioned the other day by the State House News Service, DeLeo cited what happened back in 2009 with Mayor-elect Lantigua. 
“Ultimately,” said the Speaker, “it became Representative Lantigua’s decision what to do and I would say it would be the same with Representative Heroux.”

Heroux has made no bones about wanting to stay in the House next year, in part, to give a putative Democrat replacement a better chance of winning his seat.  The thinking goes that (a) the 2d Bristol District has a lot of Republicans; (b) Republicans hold several House seats in the immediate vicinity of the 2d Bristol (Hello There, Jay Barrows, Shaun Dooley, Joe McKenna, Shauna O’Connell, Keiko Orral & Betty Poirier!); and (c) a Republican candidate would have a better chance in a special election to replace Heroux because of traditionally lower turnouts in special elections.
Why would Speaker DeLeo want to do anything to push Heroux out of the House if the resulting special election to replace him gave Republicans a leg up? 

Minority Leader Jones fully appreciates that, of course, but why would he pass up an easy opportunity to put a lit match to Democrat posteriors through the media attention he gets when promoting a bill to jam Heroux?   
I don’t buy the argument that a person cannot be simultaneously both a mayor and rep.  Yes, Massachusetts legislator is generally seen as a full-time job, and, yes, many legislators put more than full-time hours into it.  But the times when the legislature is actually in session do not come close to being full-time. 

As of this past Wednesday, November 15, for example, the legislature formally adjourned until after the new year; there will be only brief, intermittent informal sessions, attended by only a rotating handful of reps and senators, from now until then.  Likewise with legislative committee work: At any given time, there can be a lot of it, or a little, depending upon the number of committee assignments one has, how much work one wants to do, and how long one is willing and able to slog through it all. 
No one makes a legislator, except for those who serve as committee chairs, do anything.

Every state rep has at least one staff person to help with constituent services, among other tasks.  Heroux, no doubt, is thinking he’ll still be able to cover a lot of ground at the State House when he’s mayor because his staff will be on the job every day.  He’s right.
In our country, the typical citizen does not work at two different full-time jobs every day.  But plenty of citizens do.  They’re admired by the rest of us.  We call them go-getters.  We marvel at their work ethic. We maybe praise them for their big dreams of entrepreneurial success and willingness to pay the dear price of success, in toil and stress.

To say that one cannot be a good legislator and a good mayor is to sell the human spirit short.
On a less lofty level, I can argue that Heroux is doing the right thing for the treasury and taxpayers of Attleboro by not quickly resigning from the House, since it will cost the city tens of thousands of dollars to hold a special election to choose the person who will serve out the remainder of his term. 

I don’t know how much exactly a special election would cost Attleboro. Based on what I’ve seen such elections cost in other communities recently, it could easily top $40,000.  The result would be a freshman legislator who’d hold the job for less than a year and be pre-occupied with getting re-elected most of that time.
When, in the coming days, you read and hear about the pressure directed at Heroux to quit the House, I ask you to reflect upon the following observations, which were expressed so well in a State House News Service article published last Friday, November 10.  The article, a round-up of last week’s legislative actions, was written by the estimable Craig Sandler, the top guy (in more ways than one) at the SHNS. It began as follows, and all I need to quote is the first four paragraphs:

You know the old saying: “There’s no time like the last possible second!”
That’s the time-honored credo of the Massachusetts Legislature, and it was in complete effect as the last full week (Nov. 6-10) of formal legislative sessions arrived – for 2017 that is.

Why it should be necessary to wait 10 months to pass statutes for which everyone acknowledged a need in January can only be explained by the legislators themselves, and let’s face it, the explanations are never really that good. “Many stakeholders” and “input from the members” and “listening sessions” are the canards of choice under the Dome – the legislative equivalent of “giving 110 percent.”
Whatever the ultimate reason (human nature, justification for a full-time Legislature, and a lack of absolute deadlines are suspected), the House and Senate again headed into the final few days of formals for the year having put off for November what they could have accomplished in February, May or September.

 

Wouldn't It Be Great if Judicial Watchdog Lost Its Mind and Actually Said Something?

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

The Commission on Judicial Conduct has issued a customarily cryptic press release about a misbehaving judge.

The press release made a news blip via the State House News Service. However, when I went looking for the release on the web yesterday, I was unable to find it.  My electronic ferreting skills are not impressive.     
Anyway, here’s a quote from a story based on the release, said story having been posted this past Thursday, Nov. 9, on the State House News Service site (open to paying subscribers only):

“The Commission on Judicial Conduct has admonished a judge for treating a party who appeared before the judge discourteously and for otherwise behaving in a manner that was unbecoming a judicial officer and that brought the judicial office into disrepute, in violation of M.G.L., c. 211C, sec. 2(5).  Through this conduct, the judge failed to be patient, dignified, and courteous to a person appearing before the judge, in violation of Canon 3B(4) of the Code of Judicial Conduct then in effect.  The judge agreed to be monitored by the commission and meet with a mentor judge for a period of one year from the effective date of the Agreed Disposition.”
The brief story contained this exchange between a State House News Service reporter and Howard V. Neff, III, executive director of the commission: 

“Asked why the commission did not disclose the name of the judge, commission executive director Howard Neff, III, told the State House News Service, ‘I’m not going to discuss that.’  Asked if there was any additional information available on the case, Mr. Neff said, ‘There is none.’ “ 
It’s better to be a judge in trouble in Massachusetts than an average citizen because your neighbors, skeptical in-laws, creditors, and high school classmates are more likely to find out about your bad moment in the sun if you’re an average citizen.

For instance, if you live in a small town and are arrested on a Saturday afternoon for, say, idle and disorderly conduct outside your local supermarket following a verbal confrontation with a crusty old gent over a parking spot, there’s an excellent chance your name will appear in the next edition of your hometown weekly, well before you would get the opportunity to clear your name in court.  Guilty or not, you’d be known forever as the old man abuser. 
The stated policy of the Commission on Judicial Conduct regarding a judge in their crosshairs is not to release the judge’s name unless and until formal charges are filed against him/her with the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court.

Back in June, I wrote about this policy in a blog post headlined, “Official Report Leaves One Eager to Know More about ‘Racially Insensitive’ Judge.”  That post was based on the case of a judge who had reportedly made “insensitive racial comments” to another judge, as described in the commission’s 2016 annual report.  The judge to whom the comments were made reported the conversation to his supervisor. The commission then began an investigation, at the end of which the judge who had allegedly been insensitive retired.  “Because of this complaint and for family health reasons,” the 2016 annual report said, “the judge retired and agreed not to seek appointment as a recall judge.” That post may be found at:
http://pretiminahan.blogspot.com/2017/06/official-report-leaves-one-eager-to.html

As I was messing around on the Internet yesterday, I happened upon a commission press release headlined, “Massachusetts Commission on Judicial Conduct Resolves Complaint Against Retired Judge Michael C. Creedon through Agreed Disposition.”  The complete text of that release follows:

BOSTON, MA (October 17, 2016) – The Commission on Judicial Conduct has entered into an Agreed Disposition with the former First Justice of the Falmouth District Court, retired Judge Michael C. Creedon, pursuant to M.G.L. c.211C, sec. 8(1), in response to a complaint alleging that he made insensitive racial comments to another judge while in the judges’ lobby of the Falmouth District Court, in June of 2016, in violation of Rules 1, 2, 2.2, 2.3(A), 2.3(B), and 2.8(B) of the Code of Judicial Conduct.

Because of this complaint and for family health reasons, Judge Creedon retired as a judge on September 19, 2016 and has agreed not to seek appointment as a recall justice.

The Commission’s statute and Rules are available on the Commonwealth’s website: www.mass.gov/cjc
I found this quite interesting because:
ONE, there is a statement, under the heading “Confidentiality,” in the commission’s 2016 annual report that goes, verbatim, like this: “The statute and rules that govern the Commission on Judicial Conduct require that the complaint and all Commission proceedings remain confidential, unless and until the Commission files Formal Charges with the Supreme Judicial Court. (There are certain limited exceptions to this requirement.) This strict confidentiality includes all communications made to and by the Commission or its staff...”
TWO, the commission included an account of the investigation of the racially insensitive remarks in its 2016 annual report, which came out on April 28, 2017.  Pointedly, that account did not provide the name of Judge Creedon, leading one to infer that the name had been omitted because formal charges were never filed against the judge with the state’s top court.  And yet, the commission had issued a press release (copy above), apparently on the date of Oct. 17, 2016, in which Judge Creedon was identified.
Was this one of those “certain limited exceptions” to the commission’s confidentiality rule? Or was something else going on? 
I will not wait by my phone for an explanatory call from the not-exactly-garrulous Mr. Neff.

This Month in Corruption: Short Rebates, Costly Supplies, Pricey Medicaid Services, etc.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Medicaid Shortchanged on Epi-Pen Rebates. Attorney General Maura Healey announced on Oct. 3 that Mylan, the pharmaceutical company, will pay $20.3 million to the Massachusetts Medicaid program (MassHealth) to resolve allegations that it knowingly underpaid rebates owed to the program for EpiPens dispensed to program members/recipients.  The payment is part of a “global settlement” with all of the 49 other states, the federal government, and the District of Columbia.  “Mylan knowingly misrepresented this drug to MassHealth in order to underpay on rebates and make a profit at the expense of our state,” said Healey.  “This settlement brings critical funds back to our MassHealth program.  Companies that receive payments from taxpayer-funded programs must be held accountable when they abuse this system.”

Massport Overcharged for Supplies.  Interline Brands, a New Jersey company, will pay a settlement of nearly $2 million to resolve allegations it overcharged the Massachusetts Port Authority hundreds of thousands of dollars for cleaning supplies, Attorney General Maura Healey announced on Oct. 10.  The investigation into Interline’s pricing methods began with a complaint from someone who walked into the office of the state’s Inspector General Glenn Cunha one day.  Under the terms of the settlement, Massport will receive $958,000 in damages, and other entities that were over-billed will receive more than $22,000.  Cunha’s office will receive $60,000 to defray the costs of the investigation, and the balance – roughly $960,000 – will go to the state’s general fund.
Arrest Made in Medicaid Overbilling. The owner of a home health agency, Hellen Kiago, 47, of Sturbridge, was arrested on the morning of Oct. 11 by Massachusetts State Police officers assigned to the office of Attorney General Maura Healey for allegedly stealing approximately $2.7 million from the state’s Medicaid program (MassHealth) by routinely overbilling and falsely billing for services that were not authorized, according to Healey’s office.  Kiago was identified by the authorities as the sole owner of Lifestream Healthcare Alliance, which has offices in Worcester and Dracut.  Kiago pleaded innocent at her subsequent arraignment.  Healey’s office began an investigation into Lifestream after receiving complaints from several former employees “alleging misconduct and fraudulent billing practices.”

Police Officer Indicted on Larceny, Money Laundering Charges. On Oct. 12, a Suffolk County grand jury indicted Joseph Nee, 44, a Boston police officer assigned to the department’s Evidence Management Unit in Hyde Park, on charges of larceny over $250 and money laundering (one count each).  Nee is accused of stealing money from the evidence room and attempting to launder it at the Plainridge Park Casino.  Authorities allege that Nee stole approximately $2,000 from the file of a closed bank robbery case.  The stolen money was identified by the traces of red dye left from an anti-theft dye pack that discharged during the robber, according to the Office of Attorney General Maura Healey.
Sheriff Employee Snared in Cash Smuggling Case. Jamie Melo, 45, of North Dartmouth, a captain with the Bristol County Sheriff’s Office, was indicted on Oct. 25 by a federal grand jury for allegedly helping Carlos Rafael, the owner of one of the largest commercial fishing businesses in the U.S., smuggle the profits from an illegal overfishing scheme to Portugal.  Melo was charged with one count each of bulk cash smuggling, structuring, and conspiracy, according to the Office of Acting U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts William D. Weinreb.    

Five Go Down in False ID Scheme. Five individuals charged in connection with a scheme to produce false identification documents through the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV) have agreed to plead guilty in federal court, according to an Oct. 2 announcement from Acting U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts William D. Weinreb.  The defendants in the case have been identified as: Evelyn Medina, 56; Annette Gracia, 37; Kimberly Jordan, 33; David Brimage, 46; and Bivian Yohanny Brea, 41.  All of the defendants reside in Boston, with the exception of Jordan, who is from Randolph.  Each has agreed to plead guilty to one count of producing without lawful authority an identification document or a false identification document, Weinreb announced.  At the time of their arrests, Medina, Gracia, Jordan and Brimage were all employed as clerks at the Haymarket RMV office in Boston.  The scheme involved the production, for cash, of Massachusetts driver’s licenses and identification cards for illegal aliens.
Falsifying Records? IRS Employee Says ‘Guilty.’ Erik Santiago-Then, 36, of Lawrence, pleaded guilty in federal court in Boston on Oct. 10 to ten counts of falsifying records in a federal investigation, the Office of Acting U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts William D. Weinreb reported.  Santiago-Then was working as a paid cooperator for the Internal Revenue Service’s Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI) unit when the falsifications occurred.  He is due to be sentenced on Jan. 3, 2018.  Here’s how Weinreb’s office described the crime:

“As part of his work uncovering evidence against the perpetrators of a stolen identity refund fraud scheme, Santiago-Then was given IRS-CI funds and authorized to set up a controlled meeting for the purpose of purchasing fraudulently-obtained tax refund checks.  However, Santiago-Then set up a sham meeting with a cohort during which time he obtained a list of personal identifying information, rather than tax refund checks.  Following the controlled meeting, and unbeknownst to IRS-CI, Santiago-Then split the IRS-CI funds with his cohort.  Santiago-Then subsequently engineered several recorded phone calls during which his cohort posed as someone else and purportedly gave Santiago-Then the run-around concerning the purported mix-up regarding the tax refund checks.”