This Month in Corruption: Trash Scam, Hidden Funds, Medicare Data Breach, etc.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Not Nice to Bamboozle Landfill Operators.  Stephen P. Aguiar, Jr., age 47, the owner of a trash company, pleaded guilty on April 11 in federal court in Boston in connection with defrauding the operator of the Fall River Landfill out of approximately $473,000 in disposal fees.  According to the Office of Acting U.S. Attorney William D. Weinreb of the District of Massachusetts, "Aguiar was one of the owners and operators of Cleanway Disposal & Recycling, Inc., a trash removal and recycling company, and JS Aguiar Enterprises, Inc., a construction and equipment rental company, which were both located in Westport.  Aguiar contracted with the company operating the Fall River Landfill to dispose of trash collected from his private clients outside of Fall River for one rate, and to dispose of trash collected from his private clients outside of Fall River for a higher rate...Between 2009 and 2014, Aguiar misrepresented the origin of a significant portion of the trash he disposed of at the landfill.  Aguiar claimed he was disposing trash from the Fall River Housing Authority when in fact he was disposing trash collected from his private clients, thereby defrauding Fall River Landfill of approximately $473,000 in revenue."  Aguiar, who faces up to 20 years in prison, is scheduled to be sentenced in Boston on July 17.

Feds Not Happy When You Don' Come Clean with Them.  A former member of the Massachusetts House of Representatives, John George, Jr., of Dartmouth, was indicted on April 13 on one count of obstruction of justice in connection with concealing approximately $2.5 million in cash from the U.S. District Court of Boston following his sentencing proceedings in 2015.  According to the Office of Acting U.S. Attorney William D. Weinreb, George, age 70, was sentenced to 70 months in prison and was ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $688,772 and forfeiture of $1.38 million for embezzling hundreds of thousands of dollars from the Southeastern Regional Transit Authority.  "George, however, reported to the Court that he only possessed approximately $28,000 in cash.  In late 2015 and early 2016, the U.S. Attorney's Office, working with the U.S. Marshalls Service and the Internal Revenue Service's Criminal Investigations, recovered more than $2.5 million in cash, as well as Rolex watches and jewelry that George had concealed in safe deposit  boxes in New Bedford and Fairhaven."

Victims of Medicare Data Breach Number in the Thousands.  Lynrolte Cezaire, age 29, a resident of Medford, and a former employee of the Tufts Health Plan, was convicted on April 12 by a federal jury in Boston of stealing the identifying information of more than three thousand Medicare customers.  According to the Office of Acting U.S. Attorney William D. Weinreb, Cezaire worked in the Medicare enrollment department at Tufts Health Plan in Watertown from 2011 to 2014.  "During her employment, Cezaire helped a coworker, Emeline Lubin, photograph Cezaire's computer screen while it displayed lists of Medicare customers' names, dates of birth and Social Security numbers," a release from Weinreb's office states.  "Lubin then gave the information to Sniders Jean-Jacques, a Florida man, who, along with Lubin's brother, Marvin Lubin, was involved in a scheme to use stolen identities to steal Social Security benefits and to file false tax returns to collect the refunds."  Cezaire is scheduled for sentencing on July 13.

Little Thefts at Post Office Add Up to Big Number.  Carlitos Molina, age 36, the former postmaster of the U.S. Postal Services Post Offices in Blackstone and Jefferson (MA), pleaded guilty on April 26 in federal court in Worcester to stealing approximately $31,000 from the Postal Services. According to the Office of Acting U.S. Attorney William D. Weinreb, Molina, while he served as postmaster, "stole 65 postal money orders and used them to obtain cash for personal use, to pay for personal services, and to pay personal debts.  Specifically, Molina used stolen money orders to pay his home mortgage, water, cable and electricity bills, back taxes, a collections agency to which he owed money, and for car repairs.  In total, Molina embezzled approximately $31,000.  In addition, when confronted by postal management, Molina lied and stated that he had used certain money orders to pay for repairs to the post office facility."  Molina, who faces up to 10 years in prison, is due to be sentenced on July 20.

Blogster's Miscellany: a Bromance and Other Jarring Realities of Political Life

Friday, April 28, 2017

ONE WAY IN WHICH KRAFT’S ARE LIKE BELICHICK’S: The Kraft-Trump bromance is a jarring reality of political life today in Massachusetts.  Why does Bob love Donald is right up there with why does Massachusetts still have a Governor’s Council?  Yes, I know, we all have friends and relationships that are improbable, if not a little weird.  There is, for example, the guy I met 51 years ago in Revere while walking home in a thunderstorm late one summer afternoon.  Shirtless, he was using the torrent from a broken downspout on a three-family house to take a shower, shampoo and all.  I just had to strike up a conversation. Trying hard lately not to be so hard on Kraft, I seized upon the transcript of the proceedings on the south lawn of the White House on Wednesday, April 19, the day the President greeted the Super Bowl champions. It caused me to admire Kraft for having the stones to speak glowingly, and obviously genuinely, about a controversy-spewing egomaniac like Trump.   Kraft is not oblivious to Trump being detested by a large segment of the Massachusetts population.  He knows that he risks turning off at least some of the people who buy tickets to his football and soccer games and lots of other stuff, too, at that temple of consumerism, Patriot Place, not to mention a sizable portion of his own team, every time a picture pops up of him with the president at Mar-a-Lago, yet Kraft refuses to distance himself from his old friend.  (One has to wonder, if Myra Kraft were alive, would he be so public about all this.)  On the south lawn, Kraft said, “This year’s championship was achieved after falling behind by 25 points – a deficit so great that in the 97-year history of the NFL – over 25,000 games – that deficit has only been overcome seven times.  In that same year, a very good friend of mine for over 25 years, a man who is as mentally tough and as hardworking as anybody I know, launched a campaign for the presidency against 16 career politicians, facing odds almost as long as we faced in the fourth quarter.  He persevered to become the 45th President of the United States.  It’s a distinct honor for us to celebrate what was unequivocally our sweetest championship with a very good friend and somebody whose mental toughness and strength I greatly admire.”  Could this Massachusetts institution have said it any louder: “All you Elizabeth Warrens of the world, kiss this!”

BUT MAYBE KRAFT’S NOT THAT COURAGEOUS:  File this under, We're Not as Blue as We Think We Are...There were 50 communities in central Massachusetts where Trump beat Hillary Clinton.  In those towns, Trump today is viewed by more voters unfavorably than favorably, although his favorability rating in those towns, which stands at 42 percent, is still significantly higher than it is in most of America.  The Trumpster’s favorability has dipped into the mid-thirties of late nationwide, the lowest of any modern president at this early point in their presidencies.  The Massachusetts figures come from a poll conducted in early April for WBUR by the impeccable MassINC Polling Group.
MOVED PORTRAIT MOVES HER TO CROCODILE TEARS: Democrat Marilyn Petitto Devaney of Watertown, a perfect fit for the mold of the Massachusetts Governor’s Council, that overly-ripe-for-replacement/judge-nominee-vetting relic of colonial era government, is no fan of Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito, the regularly presiding officer at council meetings.  During the council’s April 12 session, Devaney, apropos of no piece of pending council business, questioned why the portrait of the late Governor Paul Cellucci was taken from a wall in the  public foyer of the governor’s office on the third floor of the State House and hung in Polito’s office.   Cellucci, like Polito, was a Republican from the far western suburbs of Boston who climbed from the House of Representatives to the lieutenant governor’s office. “I say this respectfully,” said Devaney that day, immediately signaling the opposite. “We all know your relationship with our late so-beloved Governor Cellucci, and I’m asking you on behalf of hundreds of people who have been talking about this in the last couple of years to return his portrait in the vaunted place with all of the other recent governors.  People come in (to the governor’s office) and think, ‘Where’s Governor Cellucci?’ ”  Polito dismissed the distress of those supposedly pining for a peek at Paul’s pic.  Said she, “Anyone that would like to see Governor Cellucci’s portrait can go and see it in my office.”

THIS ‘ICON’ WILL NOT GO INVISIBLE INTO THAT GOOD NIGHT: I don’t know about you but I’m definitely not breathing a sigh of relief because the famous, humongous Citgo sign in Boston’s Kenmore Square has been saved.  Recall that, back in February, there was talk of the sign going dark and being demolished because the new owners of the building on which it stands were raising the rent on that valuable rooftop space.  The mayor and other officials stepped in to drive an agreement between the parties, which will apparently keep this inescapable monster doing its stationary electric dance every night for the foreseeable future.  Sad to say, I’m old enough to remember when Kenmore Square was old and run-down and the Citgo sign was new and snazzy.  How generations of Boston liberals have come to embrace this massive, energy-gulping advertisement for big petro as a priceless piece of urban art and a special example of our capital city's individuality is something I've never understood, much less bought into, even when I was pretending to be an intellectual.  It’s not the Bunker Hill Monument.  It's a damn billboard.






I'm Feeling Right Now that 'Senator Shortsleeve' Has a Certain Duende to It

Friday, April 21, 2017

Joe Shortsleeve, who achieved New England fame as a TV newsman, is seriously considering running for the Massachusetts Senate.

As a former newsman of the (glamor-challenged) print variety, I hope Joe runs for the Bristol-Norfolk District seat to be vacated soon (May 2) by Jim Timilty. 
My advice is he should adopt a campaign slogan once used by another newsman, Jimmy Breslin, when he ran in 1968 for city council president in New York City on a ticket headed by novelist/journalist Norman Mailer:  “Throw the rascals in!”

Counter-intuitive is working today in U.S. politics.  Just ask Donald “I-like-guys-who-don’t-get captured” Trump.  And people always like a guy who can poke fun at himself and have a little fun on the campaign trail.
Shortsleeve, 59, had a long career at WBZ-TV News in Boston before linking up in 2014 with the Liberty Square group, a communications/political consulting firm headed by Scott Ferson, who made his bones as a javelin-catching press spokesman for Ted Kennedy.

I have never met Joe Shortsleeve.  I can’t say what might be fueling his late-blooming interest in public office. If I had to guess, I’d say it has to do with the typical candidate’s desire to attain power, recognition and a voice in weighty matters, coupled with the feeling of, “Why shouldn’t I run? I can do at least as good as the pols I’ve been covering for years.”
Here I am no doubt projecting my own tiny temperament onto the poor Mr. Shortsleeve.  Sorry, Joe.

As someone who long ago covered city government and state government for a daily newspaper, I can identify with the spectator who thinks he’s cut out to be a player.  While witnessing a speech by a long-winded mayor or legislator, I confess that I sometimes dreamt of being in that person’s shoes.  I’d think, “Damn, I could do this! I’d look good up there.” 
Fortunately, I never put that hypothesis to the test; else the embarrassment of defeat at the polls, an experience likened by many losing candidates to “a public death,” would have been added to my bulging book of life regrets.  (The old Latin proverb comes to mind: Nemo sui iudex.  No man can judge himself.)

In any event, a member of a distinguished Massachusetts political family, a true gentleman who has served in the state senate for 13 years, Jim Timilty, Democrat of Walpole, is leaving the upper branch to take the post of Norfolk County Treasurer, and someone will be chosen relatively soon in a special election to succeed him.
“I’ve got to make a decision (to run or not) within the next week or so,” said Shortsleeve, a resident of Medfield and uncle of quintessential man-on-the-hot-seat Brian Shortsleeve, who serves in the Baker administration as the MBTA’s chief administrator.

If Joe Shortsleeve gives it a go – and I sincerely hope he does -- he’ll be joining two persons already with both feet in the race, Ted Philips, staff director for Stoughton representative Lou Kafka, and Paul Feeney, a former chief of staff to Senator Timilty, a former majordomo in the Bernie Sanders presidential campaign apparatus, and the current legislative director (lobbyist) for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 2222.
If Shortsleeve runs, he’ll have the widest name recognition by far throughout the race.  That’s the kind of thing that comes from having been the chief news correspondent for a TV station with a powerful broadcast signal and a vast, loyal viewership.

Pondering that name today, on the spur I did an Internet search, asking omniscient Lord Google, “What is the derivation of the surname Shortsleeve?”  The most plausible answer was, it’s an anglicized version of the French-Canadian name Courtemanche.  (Court means short in French, manche sleeve.)  
Following the Google-proffered thread, I found there are Shortsleeves residing in towns across New York State and New England, which brought to mind something an older colleague of mine in newspapering used to remind us greenhorns of.  “Well into the 1970s,” Loring Swaim was wont to say, “more residents of Massachusetts traced their ancestry to French Canada than to any other country, including England, Ireland and Italy.”

Speaking of persons who should run for office, I am hoping Rep. Christopher Walsh goes for mayor of Framingham, as he's thinking of doing when that community transitions next year from a town meeting form of government to the more conventional system for cities of its size, mayor and city council.
A four-term Democrat and licensed professional architect, Walsh is smart and easygoing, with a good grasp of policy and legislating -- someone who takes his job seriously and himself lightly.  Plus, he gave a great sound bite to the State House News Service when it asked him this past Tuesday why’s he’s interested in becoming Framingham’s first-ever elected chief executive.

“I love my job as a state rep,” said Walsh.  “It’s one of the best jobs I’ve ever had.  But the ability to effect things at this local level as the first mayor, I think, is wildly interesting and I’m going to pursue that a little bit and see how possible it is.”
Anyone who can ingenuously declare that being a mayor today of a city of 68,000 souls is a “wildly interesting” proposition, and can describe the chance to be that mayor as a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” has my vote.  






Kudos to Charlie Baker for Wanting Michael Ricciuti on Superior Court

Monday, April 10, 2017

Michael Ricciuti’s is an American success story. He clearly merits the superior court judgeship he’s been nominated for by the governor.

But do not be surprised if one or even two members of the Governor’s Council vote against confirming him.  A relic of Colonial Era government, the Council provides a haven for some of the most unpredictable and inexplicable politicians in Massachusetts.
The hearing on Ricciuti’s nomination was held before the eight-member Council this past Thursday.  Former Middlesex District Attorney Gerard Leone testified that he’d seen "no better lawyer" in his decades of practice than Ricciuti.

If confirmed, Ricciuti will fill a vacancy left by the recent elevation of Judge Kimberly Budd to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court.
Ricciuti grew up in Quincy, attended the U.S. Military Academy at West Point for two years, transferred to Harvard College, and went straight to Harvard Law School.  After law school, he clerked for the late A. David Mazzone, a federal judge who grew up in Everett, went to Harvard, and was renowned as much for his brains as for his courage. 

It was Mazzone who ordered the clean-up of Boston Harbor in 1985, a very costly and controversial undertaking that turned the harbor into Exhibit A of the value of large-scale, multi-year environmental remediation projects. 
Ricciuti told the Governor’s Council he came to the understanding that justice was administered properly in Mazzone's courtroom and asked him how to become a judge. "You need to experience the law fully," Mazzone told Ricciuti, recommending that he work in turn as a prosecutor, criminal defense lawyer and civil litigant. Ricciuti said, "I took all that to heart."

After clerking for Mazzone, Ricciuti worked for the Norfolk County District Attorney's Office and then as a trial lawyer for the U.S. Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division.
Ricciuti was a federal prosecutor for a decade ending in 2005 and was chief of anti-terrorism and national security in the office for a long spell.

The case that stood out for him the most during that period, according to a State House News Service account of Ricciuti’s nomination hearing, was a Drug Enforcement Administration crackdown on a drug-dealing operation that had overrun a public housing complex in Fitchburg.  At the end, Ricciuti said, residents of the complex thanked law enforcement agents for their intervention.
At 55, Ricciuti is a partner at K&L Gates, the eighth largest law firm in the U.S., and teaches on the side at Suffolk University Law School, which has undoubtedly produced more members of the Massachusetts legislature than any other law school through the years.

Ricciuti’s grandfather was an Italian immigrant -- a stonecutter who started a business “quarrying stone from the hills of Quincy and making it into monuments,” he said Thursday.
Having inherited his grandfather’s work ethic and determination, he could have a monumental career on the bench.

The Governor’s Council is expected to vote on Ricciuti’s nomination later this week.

Footnote: My skepticism was off base.  The Governor's Council voted unanimously earlier today (April 12) to confirm Atty. Michael Ricciuti's appointment to the Superior Court bench.