McLaughlin Pleads Guilty to Unlawfully Soliciting

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, including the campaign of former Lt. Gov. Tim Murray.

“McLaughlin exploited his position as head of the Chelsea Housing Authority to use the public agency as a base for political fundraising,” said Attorney General Martha Coakley. “This conduct violates campaign finance law and undermines the public’s trust.”

Michael McLaughlin, 68, of Dracut, pleaded guilty Monday 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, so essentially, he will serve no time for the crimes.

He is already serving four years for unrelated federal crimes that occurred during his 11-year CHA tenure. One of those years in prison was added last Friday in Boston’s Federal Court.

The illegal fundraising 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.

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.

In Federal Court last summer, former CHA Accountant and McLaughlin friend, James McNichols, testified that he was the individual that was told to collect the campaign contributions for McLaughlin.

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.

On August 29, 2013 McLaughlin was indicted by a Suffolk County Grand Jury. He was arraigned on Sept. 5, 2013 in Suffolk Superior Court. He was expected to plead guilty that same day, but suddenly chose not to do so for unknown reasons. On Monday, however, he did finally plead guilty to the charges.

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