The former chief of the Chelsea Housing Authority was charged Wednesday with four felony counts of deliberately concealing his inflated salary from state and federal regulators from 2008 until he resigned in 2011, triggering a scandal that has rocked Massachusetts’ public housing system to its foundation.
US Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz announced the federal charges against Michael E. McLaughlin, 67, of Dracut, alleging that McLaughlin deliberately underreported his annual salary by up to $164,000 a year in mandatory reports to state and federal housing regulators. The charges were contained in a document that is normally used when the defendant has agreed to plead guilty.
Each violation carries a penalty of up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, but McLaughlin, who has no criminal record, will probably face a much less severe punishment. Under federal guidelines, a conviction on even one count calls for at least eight months in jail.
Public officials greeted news of the charges with satisfaction, saying that McLaughlin had violated the public trust for years at the Chelsea Housing Authority while he built up his power and salary at the expense of the low-income people he was supposed to serve.
State Attorney General Martha Coakley said her office will continue a criminal investigation that has focused in part on McLaughlin’s fund-raising for Lieutenant Governor Timothy P. Murray.
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