Skip to main content
Press Release

Former Attorney Sentenced to Two Years in Prison for Bribery Scheme

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Massachusetts

BOSTON – A former Massachusetts attorney was sentenced today for engaging in a scheme to bribe the Chief of Police in Medford, Mass. to obtain approval for a client to sell recreational marijuana. 

Sean O’Donovan, 56, of Somerville, Mass., was sentenced by Senior U.S. District Court Judge William G. Young to two years in prison to be followed by three years of supervised release. O’Donovan was also ordered to pay a fine of $150,000 and a $300 special assessment. In October 2023, O’Donovan was convicted by a federal jury on two counts of honest services wire fraud and one count of bribery concerning programs receiving federal funds. 

“Driven by greed, Mr. O’Donovan tried his hand at an old school bribery scheme in which he tried to bribe a police chief for the sake of lining his own pockets. Fortunately, his attempt was promptly thwarted by the integrity of the Police Chief he targeted, as he immediately reported him to federal authorities,” said Acting United States Attorney Joshua S. Levy. “Our office remains committed to rooting out corruption in public offices. Today’s sentence should serve as a warning to anyone who thinks they can corrupt government officials for personal gain: your conduct will be uncovered, and will land you in federal prison – regardless of who you are.”

“Attorney Sean O’Donovan thought he was beyond the reach of the law when he orchestrated a back-door deal, funded by bribes, to line his own pockets. In doing so, he betrayed his client, and all hard-working businesses trying to play by the rules,” said Jodi Cohen, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Boston Division. “Such blatant corruption is toxic to the public trust, and today’s sentence makes it clear that crime truly does not pay. The FBI is committed to stamping out corruption, and we are very grateful to the Medford Police Chief and his brother who worked with us to thwart his shameful scheme.”

O’Donovan sought to corrupt the City of Medford’s political process for selecting retail marijuana companies by attempting to influence the Medford Police Chief in connection with O’Donovan’s client’s recreational marijuana business. At the time, the Chief had recently been appointed to serve on a committee to rank such applications on behalf of the Mayor, who would ultimately select three applicants to open retail marijuana stores in Medford. 

O’Donovan approached the Chief’s relative and offered to pay as much as $50,000 in tax-free cash to the Chief’s relative in exchange for the Chief’s official support for his client’s anticipated application to sell recreational marijuana in Medford. Specifically, O’Donovan sought to have the Chief favorably rank his client’s application and, separately, to advise and pressure the Mayor to select the client. O’Donovan was slated to receive a stream of income of at least $100,000 annually from his client’s marijuana business if its Medford application was successful. After the relative informed the Chief of O’Donovan’s corrupt offer, the Chief immediately alerted federal authorities. Both the Chief and his relative cooperated with the investigation. O’Donovan never informed his client of the bribery scheme.

Acting U.S. Attorney Levy; SAC Cohen; Acting Assistant Attorney General Nicole M. Argentieri of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; and Assistant Director Michael D. Nordwall of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division made the announcement today. Assistant U.S. Attorney Kristina E. Barclay with the Public Corruption Unit for the District of Massachusetts and Trial Attorney Jonathan E. Jacobson of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section and prosecuted the case.

Updated February 7, 2024

Public Corruption