John Lakian again under the microscope

John Lakian with his wife Andrea in 1985 after his libel suit against the Globe was dismissed.
Globe File Photo
John Lakian with his wife Andrea in 1985 after his libel suit against the Globe was dismissed.

John Lakian, a fraud? A liar? Really?

The Globe’s intrepid reporter Walter Robinson first said so three decades ago. Then a jury agreed it was true. And now the US Justice Department is saying that Lakian, along with his business partner, have run afoul of the law once again.

“They lied, cheated, and stole,’’ an FBI official said last week when the Justice Department announced an indictment against Lakian and Diane W. Lamm for defrauding investors and banks of millions of dollars.


The last we heard of Lakian, Mitt Romney had dispatched him to the dust bin of Massachusetts political history.

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That was in 1994, when Romney emerged from nowhere, a wealthy financier who wanted to follow his father into politics. Lakian, a dozen years after getting mauled in a Republican gubernatorial primary over questions about his resume, was looking to reset his political career with a challenge to Edward M. Kennedy.

And had it not been for Romney, with his impeccable personal and professional credentials that galvanized the party behind him, he might have been the party’s US Senate nominee.

But the Democratic operatives, who chewed up even the clean-jeans Romney, would have had a field day with Lakian if he had made it to the general election.

A Worcester native, Lakian looked like the real deal when he ran for governor 1982. He had the perfect profile — a self-made millionaire, Harvard graduate, and a Vietnam veteran who was given a battlefield promotion. Along with good looks, a very likeable personality, and solid ethnic urban roots, he had all the trappings to be the perfect candidate for the struggling, calcified Massachusetts GOP.


The problem: He never went to Harvard and there was never a battlefield promotion. His claims that his father died of his World War II wounds were untrue as well. His father died when he ran his car into the back of a trolley in Worcester.

The hits were too much for his once-promising political career. He came in a distant second in a three-way race just ahead of a little known Holbrook state representative named Andrew Card, and far behind the winner, John Sears, a Yankee Brahmin who went on to be crushed by Michael Dukakis.

Lakian pursued a libel case against the Globe, spending well over $1 million of his own money, only to see the jury validate the story. He even had to admit on the stand — a hugely embarrassing moment in the trial — that he lied in a previous legal proceeding when he claimed under oath he had a Harvard degree.

When he reappeared on the political scene in 1994, saying he was sorry and had learned from his mistakes, the Republicans — and the media — were suspicious. But he put on an intriguing air of honesty, apologizing for all of his lies and fraudulent claims.

He even sought out Robinson, by then the Globe’s metro editor, to explain why he had been so deceptive. He said he gone to counseling and discovered he had “deep-seated psychological problems’’ that caused him to inflate his resume.


But in the end, no one was buying the rebranding. He spent $3 million in the Senate primary, a hugely expensive endeavor considering he only got 18 percent of the vote in a two-person contest with Romney.

Frank Phillips can be reached at phillips@globe.com.