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Ex-Chelsea housing chief Michael McLaughlin seeks sentence reduction

Disgraced former head of the Chelsea Housing Authority Michael E. McLaughlin.

Kayana Szymczak for The Boston Globe/file 2011

Disgraced former head of the Chelsea Housing Authority Michael E. McLaughlin.

Michael E. McLaughlin, the disgraced former head of the Chelsea Housing Authority, is seeking a reduction of his three-year federal prison term for repeatedly lying about his income to government regulators.

His lawyer, Thomas M. Hoopes, filed a one-sentence notice of appeal on Friday “from the judgment and sentence entered” in July in US District Court in Boston. The US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, also in Boston, will consider the appeal.

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Hoopes declined to comment Friday, as did a spokeswoman for US Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz.

The appeal notice came one day after Attorney General Martha Coakley’s office announced that McLaughlin had been indicted on state charges alleging that, as a public employee, he unlawfully solicited funds for election campaigns, including for former lieutenant governor Timothy P. Murray.

Murray and his campaign committee have agreed to pay $80,000 in fines to settle allegations that he accepted the illegal funds. The former lieutenant governor has repeatedly said that he did not ask McLaughlin to solicit contributions and was unaware that he was doing so.

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McLaughlin’s arraignment in that case is scheduled for Sept. 5, eight days before he must report to federal prison.

McLaughlin, 67, of Dracut, pleaded guilty in the federal case in February to four felonies for deliberately underreporting his income, which grew from $77,000 when he was hired in 2000 to more than $360,000 by the time he resigned in 2011. His soaring salary, along with his failure to properly report it, was first reported by the Globe in October 2011.

The former Democratic state representative and county commissioner said at sentencing that he “truly regretted” filing false reports and blamed them on “my stubbornness and ego.”

Prosecutors had recommended a sentence at the low end of the guideline range of 12 to 18 months.

However, US District Court Judge Douglas P. Woodlock postponed sentencing in June so that he could hold a hearing to determine whether McLaughlin deserved a stiffer penalty in light of allegations that he obstructed justice during the investigation.

At the subsequent hearing, former housing authority accountant James McNichols testified that McLaughlin instructed him to destroy all of McLaughlin’s time cards in the housing authority’s files.

In a court filing earlier this month where Hoopes, McLaughlin’s lawyer, requested more time to file an appeal notice, he said there were legitimate sentencing issues to consider.

He wrote that “there is a meritorious issue for an appeal,” adding that “the sentencing issues which were presented to the Court forced thorny decisions regarding the proper process to be utilized in receiving evidence which would in turn serve as the basis for certain sentencing determinations.”

Andrea Estes and Sean P. Murphy of the Globe Staff contributed to this report.
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