Federal investigators Wednesday raided the Canton law office of state Senator Brian A. Joyce, a former assistant majority leader who has been under fire for alleged ethical lapses, including accepting free or discounted services and charging his campaign fund for a family party.
In early afternoon, more than a dozen FBI agents entered the law office building in downtown Canton as passersby stopped to watch. The agents removed dozens of boxes that appeared to contain records during a raid that lasted for several hours.
“The FBI and the IRS are conducting court-authorized activity in connection with an ongoing investigation,” said Kristen Setera, an FBI spokeswoman.
A person familiar with the investigation said the raid stemmed from recent Boston Globe stories detailing several ways in which Joyce allegedly used his position as a senator to benefit himself and his law practice.
Federal and state laws prohibit public officials from using their position to get things for themselves.
Joyce’s attorney defended the Milton Democrat and said that he has been cooperating with various investigations that have been ongoing, and will cooperate with the new federal probe.
“It is unfortunate that recent stories in the media appear to have sparked an investigation,” said attorney Howard M. Cooper in a prepared statement. “Senator Joyce has been cooperating with each inquiry that has taken place to date resulting from those stories and believes that he has done absolutely nothing wrong.”
Joyce is already under investigation by the state Ethics Commission and he recently settled allegations of improper use of his campaign fund with another agency. Under an agreement made public last month by the state Office of Campaign and Political Finance, Joyce agreed to pay nearly $5,000 for tapping campaign funds to pay for his son’s 2014 high school graduation party, the Globe reported. Joyce did not admit wrongdoing.
Jerry Richman, who said he gave Joyce free dry cleaning for more than a decade starting in 1997, said he would gladly speak to federal agents about the arrangement. Richman, who owned Woodlawn Cleaners in Randolph until 2008, said Joyce brought in $50 to $100 worth of dry cleaning almost weekly for years, and did not pay.
“All I can do is tell them the truth,” said Richman, a former Joyce supporter who said he originally offered free dry cleaning with no idea that Joyce would so fully take advantage of him for so many years.
Joyce has said the free dry cleaning was Richman’s payment for legal work, but Richman said the deal began years before Joyce did any legal work for him. If Joyce did receive the dry cleaning as payment for services, he would have had to report the value of the services on his taxes, according to former US attorney Michael Sullivan.
Meanwhile, Massachusetts Republicans Wednesday called on Joyce to resign in light of the FBI raid.
“Joyce’s remarkable disregard for the law is a byproduct of the Democratic culture of corruption on Beacon Hill, where abuse of power appears to be a fringe benefit,” said party chairwoman Kirsten Hughes in a prepared statement.
The Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance, a fiscal watchdog group, also called for Joyce to step down.
“No public servant should use their Senate office as a one-stop shop for personal enrichment,” said Paul D. Craney, executive director of the Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance. “Legislative leaders should begin the process of expelling Joyce, like they did in 2014 with disgraced former state representative Carlos Henriquez.”
A spokesman for Governor Charlie Baker’s office called the raid on Joyce’s office “very concerning,” but Baker did not call for his resignation.
Baker has previously said that reports of Joyce receiving free dry cleaning “is the sort
of thing the Ethics Commission should take a really hard look at.”
“The issues that were raised here were troubling to begin with, and obviously there is now a pretty aggressive ongoing investigation,” Baker said during a media briefing. “I think to some extent we should wait to see where that goes.”
Joyce has said he is not even considering resigning, according to other legislators, portraying himself as a victim of unfair media scrutiny.
“I did almost nothing else — responding to questions [from the Globe] for the past 13 months day in and day out,” Joyce said in a recent appearance on WGBH News’ “Greater Boston” with Jim Braude. “These stories have hurt me personally, professionally, and politically. It also hurts my family.”
Senate President Stanley Rosenberg has remained silent as Joyce’s actions have come under scrutiny. On Wednesday, as federal agents seized records from Joyce’s law office, Rosenberg issued a terse statement through a spokesman.
“The Senate will of course be fully cooperative with any and all requests from law enforcement,” wrote the spokesman, Pete Wilson. “We will wait until the authorities have completed their investigation before commenting further.”
Agents remained at Joyce’s office until about 6 p.m. Their presence stunned the quiet neighborhood, and onlookers watched from across the street. “I was shocked,” said Paula Rotondo, a neighbor.
Catherine Andreotti, a former Canton resident who was visiting the area while the raid was underway, said she was disappointed to hear about the investigation. She met him at a holiday parade once and always liked him.
“He’s a very nice guy. He seemed to love people and people loved him. You just don’t want to hear about this from someone like that.”
Joyce stepped down as assistant majority leader last year amid another investigation by the Ethics Commission, which was launched after the Globe reported last May that Joyce had met with state insurance regulators on behalf of a private client, Energi.
David Giannotti, Ethics Commission spokesman, wouldn’t comment on his agency’s ongoing investigation, citing “strict confidentiality restrictions imposed on the commission by statute.”