BOSTON - A federal grand jury has indicted three former state probation officials on charges stemming from their fraudulent scheme to hire and promote state probation officers based upon political connections rather than merit.
John J. O’Brien, 55, of Quincy, Elizabeth V. Tavares, 54, of Newton, and William H. Burke, III, 68, of Hatfield are charged with one count of RICO conspiracy and 10 counts of mail fraud. O’Brien and Tavares are also charged with a substantive RICO count. If convicted, the defendants each face up to 20 years in prison, to be followed by five years of supervised release and a $250,000 fine on each count.
The indictment alleges that as high-ranking members of the state Office of the Commissioner of Probation, O’Brien, Tavares and Burke instituted a rigged hiring system. The system catered to requests from state legislators and others to employ and promote candidates for employment with the Probation Department. It is alleged that the defendants sought to curry favor with members of the Massachusetts legislature.
It is further alleged that the defendants engaged in this fraudulent scheme by obtaining employment and promotions for individuals who were not the most qualified but, instead, whom the defendants understood to be best politically connected or “sponsored.” It is also alleged that through hiring and promoting individuals who were sponsored by members of the legislature, while also maintaining the facade of a merit-based hiring system, the defendants and their co-conspirators sought to increase their ability to obtain favorable votes on their budget requests. It is further alleged this system was used by the defendants, and other members of the conspiracy, to conceal the fact that the hiring decisions were pre-determined and not based upon merit, but based upon the nature and extent of the sponsorship.
According to the indictment, the defendants routinely selected the name or names of a “preferred” candidate for each position from the sponsor lists and provided those names to members of the interview panels. By pre-selecting the preferred candidate, the defendants sought to ensure that the preferred candidate reached the final round and was also awarded the highest score at the final round interview. The scoring sheets were falsified and other methodology skewed to achieve this result. This system created the aura of a legitimate merit-based hiring process.
United States Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz and Richard DesLauriers, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation - Boston Field Division made the announcement today. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Fred M. Wyshak and Robert Fisher of Ortiz’s Public Corruption and Special Prosecutions Unit, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Karin M. Bell, from Ortiz’s Worcester office.
The details contained in the indictment are allegations. The defendants are presumed to be innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.