Former Lee Police Chief Sentenced to Prison for Extortion
BOSTON – The former chief of the Lee Police Department was sentenced today in U.S. District Court in Springfield for extorting a $4,000 payment from a couple facing prostitution charges in Southern Berkshire District Court.
“Mr. Buffis abused his position of authority by extorting cash for his own benefit and greed,” said United States Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz. “This degrades the respect and trust that communities place in their law enforcement officials, and is contrary to the values promoted by those who uphold the law.”
“Mr. Buffis turned his back on his law enforcement profession and his community, choosing instead to break the laws he was sworn to uphold,” said Harold H. Shaw, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Boston Field Division. “The FBI hopes this sentence sends a clear message—corruption at all levels of government will not be tolerated.”
Joseph Buffis, 57, of Pittsfield, Mass., was sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge Mark G. Mastroianni to 27 months in prison, two years of supervised release and forfeiture of $4,000. He was convicted following a three-week trial in June 2015 of extortion under color of official right.
As the Lee Police Chief, Buffis solicited and controlled public donations to the Edward J. Laliberte Toy Fund, a children’s holiday toy fund. On Feb. 21, 2012, Buffis extorted a $4,000 “donation” check to the toy fund from two individuals who were facing prostitution-related charges. Buffis deposited the $4,000 check into the toy fund’s bank account and then quickly withdrew $3,990 of these funds in three checks that he wrote to “cash.” Buffis did not cash these checks, but instead deposited them into a personal bank account, and then used the diverted funds to pay various personal expenses. When law enforcement commenced an investigation into this activity, Buffis repeatedly lied about the funds.
At today’s sentencing, Judge Mastroianni stated that, “Mr. Buffis used his position as the highest ranking police officer to essentially auction off his own concept of justice.” He went on to say, “To impugn the integrity of a department like you did is a monumental, terrible, unfair thing, a selfish thing.”
U.S. Attorney Ortiz; SAC Shaw; and Colonel Richard D. McKeon, Superintendent of the Massachusetts State Police, made the announcement today. The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Steven H. Breslow and Deepika Shukla of Ortiz’s Springfield Branch Office.