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Jailed housing official admits illegal fund-raising for Murray

Former Chelsea housing official Michael McLaughlin.

John Tlumacki /Globe Staff/File 2013

Former Chelsea housing official Michael McLaughlin.

Disgraced Chelsea housing official Michael McLaughlin pleaded guilty Monday to illegally soliciting campaign contributions on behalf of Timothy Murray, then lieutenant governor, and another politician, his third guilty plea to criminal charges stemming from his 11-year tenure at an agency that provides low-income housing.

McLaughlin, who was forced to resign as the Chelsea Housing Authority director in 2011 after the Globe exposed his inflated $360,000 salary, admitted he acted as a fund-raiser for Murray and a candidate for mayor of Lawrence, even though as a nonelected public employee he was barred from collecting political contributions.

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“McLaughlin exploited his position as head of the Chelsea Housing Authority to use the public agency as a base for political fund-raising,” Attorney General Martha Coakley said in a statement. “This conduct violates campaign finance law and undermines the public’s trust.”

Suffolk Superior Court Judge Carol Ball immediately sentenced McLaughlin, 68, to six months in prison and another six months that will be suspended while he serves three years of probation. However, the judge made the sentence retroactive to McLaughlin’s arraignment last year, meaning it will not delay his release from federal prison, now expected sometime in 2016 or 2017.

McLaughlin’s attorney could not be reached for comment.

The scandal over McLaughlin’s role derailed Murray’s once-promising political career; he resigned last year and agreed to pay $80,000 in fines to settle charges from Coakley’s office that he accepted illegal contributions from McLaughlin and another public official.

Monday’s guilty plea brings to a close the criminal cases against McLaughlin. Last Friday, McLaughlin pleaded guilty to rigging federal inspections of Chelsea apartments to make it appear that the units were well maintained when they were not. A judge ordered him to pay a fine and serve 12 months in federal prison for conspiring to defraud the US Department of Housing and Urban Development.

In 2013, McLaughlin admitted that he deliberately concealed his inflated salary — McLaughlin was one of the highest-paid public housing officials in the United States — from federal regulators. He admitted to a Globe reporter that he deliberately understated his salary by more than $100,000 on federal reports, describing the deception as “the rebel in me.”

McLaughlin was sentenced to three years in federal prison for four counts of filing false reports about his salary, saying in court last year that he “truly regretted” his actions, which he blamed on “my stubbornness and ego.”

Related:

2011: Chelsea housing chief’s $360,383 salary draws fire

Yvonne Abraham: Looks like Chelsea is getting the last laugh

Globe investigation: Chelsea housing scandal

Scott Allen can be reached at allen@globe.com.

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