Former Chelsea public housing chief Michael E. McLaughlin could face little, if any, prison time under Tuesday’s plea agreement with federal prosecutors, but he still faces possible criminal prosecution from state Attorney General Martha Coakley, who is conducting an energetic investigation into McLaughlin’s allegedly illegal political fund-raising.
McLaughlin pleaded guilty to four felony counts of concealing his inflated salary from federal officials. He has not yet negotiated a plea deal with state investigators that, like the federal deal, would require him to provide evidence against others. However, a person briefed on Coakley’s investigation said McLaughlin is already providing information about his relationship with his onetime ally, Lieutenant Governor Timothy P. Murray.
On Tuesday, McLaughlin admitted that for at least four years he intentionally understated his actual salary by about $140,000 annually out of fear that disclosure would trigger a federal investigation into his activities at the Chelsea Housing Authority, which provides housing for elderly and low income people.
His $360,000 salary was among the highest of any public housing official in the United States.
McLaughlin was subdued and slightly nervous as he appeared before US District Court Judge Douglas P. Woodlock. That was a marked change from his court appearance in November 2011, when he boasted about his salary, telling a Globe reporter he deserved every penny of his pay because he was a superstar among the nation’s housing directors. Asked directly why he understated his salary in official documents, McLaughlin smiled and answered, “That was the rebel in me.”
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