With One Last Scheme in Him, Ex-Legislator/City Manager Didn't Get Far

Monday, December 12, 2011

A federal judge made the right decision early this month when he sentenced Bernard J. Tully, a former member of the Massachusetts Senate and Lowell city manager, to four months of home confinement for wire fraud and ordered him to pay $18,000 in restitution. There isn't much point in locking up a non-violent octogenarian who takes five different prescription meds a day.

If Tully had been sent to jail, however, he probably would have become a minor celebrity wherever they put him. The younger convicts, which is to say everyone else, would have admired his brass, if not his brains.

They might have even regarded him as an inspiration. (I can imagine one of them wrapping an arm around Tully the first week and saying, "Gramps, you're the best! Because of you, I now know there's no age limit to being a grifter. I know I can be making scores when I'm walking with a cane and shouting at people to talk into my good ear.")

It is an unusual tale -- the kind that would be dismissed as implausible if it turned up in fiction --that led to Tully pleading guilty to wire fraud in the U.S. District Court in Boston. According to the office of the U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts, Tully admitted he devised a scheme to defraud a Boston area businessman out of approximately $18,000 by falsely representing that he and another co-conspirator were using the funds to bribe public officials to keep the Lowell office of the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV) as a tenant in a building owned by the businessman.

After the Registry announced in July, 2009, that it would be closing its Lowell office, Tully reportedly approached the businessman with an offer to be the intermediary in a scheme that would deliver payments to a certain public official in the Merrimack Valley in exchange for the official exerting influence on the agency to reverse its decision and keep the Lowell branch open.

It was a total bluff on the part of Tully, who served in the Senate from 1971 to 1979 and basically ran the city of Lowell as its appointed, professional manager from 1979 to 1987.

He had no connection with the public official in question, and had never approached that person about being part of a deal that prosecutors later dubbed "a perverse fraud."

As an engine of deception, the scheme quickly sputtered. And the hapless Tully had no idea it wasn't working. Shortly after his first meeting with Tully, the businessman contacted the FBI, told investigators everything, and agreed to play along until enough evidence could be gathered to charge Tully with a crime.

Sadly, this was not the first time Tully found himself on the wrong side of the law: in 1989, he was convicted of attempting to extort money from a Lowell car dealer who wanted to obtain a piece of municipally-owned land while Tully was city manager.

"It's like you didn't get the message the first time," Judge Patti B. Saris scolded him during sentencing on Dec. 1.

Like all of us, Tully is not a one-dimensional figure; he has a good side. You have to feel bad for him, at least a little bit, what with his poor health, his advanced years (he will turn 85 in January), and the burdens he carries as the primary caregiver to his disabled 59-year-old son, who suffered a bad stroke seven years ago.

Judge Saris made allowances for Tully's obligations when she ruled that he could leave his Dracut home between 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. over the next four months only to visit with and care for his son.

With winter coming on, Tully probably would not have been going out much at night anyway, so that was a gentle restriction. Much harder for Tully will be that restitution of $18,000. My guess is, he survives on Social Security and has no money left, which is why he probably came up with the crazy idea of a way-over-the-hill political operative shaking down a landlord and pretend-bribing a public official in the first place.

No comments:

Post a Comment