The Boston office of the FBI sought the public’s help Monday in rooting out public corruption, warning that the state’s fledging casino and medical marijuana industries have the potential to tempt legislators, police officers, even zoning board members into wrongdoing.
“This is all fertile ground for bribery and public corruption,” said Lucy Ziobro, an assistant special agent in charge who oversees the prosecution of white-collar crimes.
“When there’s money, or opportunity to make money, there’s greed, and when there’s greed there’s corruption,” she said.
Ziobro joined Vincent Lisi, the special agent in charge in Boston, and supervisory agent Mike Carazza, who oversees the public corruption unit, in announcing a new tipline, 1-844-NO-BRIBE, and website, tips.fbi.gov.
The tipline and website will be promoted on billboards throughout the region in a “Stop Corruption Now” campaign, in hopes that people will report suspected corruption. The FBI will keep reports private.
At the Monday announcement of the anticorruption campaign, the FBI posted marketing posters with pictures from past investigations, including a picture of former state senator Dianne Wilkerson stuffing her bra with cash. Wilkerson was convicted of extortion in federal court in Boston and was sentenced in 2011 to 3½ years in prison.
“The public relies on us to identify corrupt public officials, and bring them to justice,” Lisi said.
Ziobro added, “We want to see if the public can engage in this with us.”
With the recent prosecutions of several Massachusetts legislators – the three previous House speakers have been convicted in federal court – the FBI officials stressed their new campaign is not limited to the casino and medical marijuana industries, and that they will investigate public corruption at any level.
Still, Lisi warned that the potentially lucrative new industries, specifically casinos, cause concern.
Already, US prosecutors have indicted a Mafia associate and two other men who allegedly hid the Mafia associate’s ownership of an Everett plot of land that was to be sold to casino mogul Steve Wynn. The state’s gambling laws bar criminals from profiting from a gambling facility, and the Mafia associate’s ownership of the land could have jeopardized Wynn’s casino plans.
The state has also closely regulated the medical marijuana industry since voters approved the opening of dispensaries in Massachusetts two years ago.
Officials asked the public to be on the look out for any public official – a police officer, a judge, a legislator, or a zoning board member – who uses his or her office for personal gain, whether related to the casino or medical marijuana industries, or any other business.
The FBI officials listed recent public corruption cases from Providence to Maine, including the conviction of former Providence mayor Vincent “Buddy” Cianci and the conviction of a town selectwoman from Chelsea, Maine, who was sentenced in June to 87 months in prison for extorting kickbacks from a local construction company that plowed, salted, and sanded the town’s roads.
Lisi also noted the recent convictions of three officials from the Massachusetts Probation Department who ran a scheme to direct jobs to politically connected candidates in exchange for favors from state legislators.