Ex-State Senator Charged With Accepting Bribes, Kickbacks
BOSTON (AP) — A former Massachusetts state senator was charged Friday with accepting up to $1 million in bribes and kickbacks in exchange for helping companies and then laundering the money through his law office, disguising it as legal fees.
Brian Joyce, 55, was arrested at his Westport home shortly before sunrise Friday, hours before authorities unsealed a 113-count indictment stemming from a two-year investigation that charges the Democrat with racketeering, extortion, wire fraud and money laundering.
"We believe Mr. Joyce was greedy, plain and simple," FBI Special Agent in Charge Hank Shaw said.
Acting U.S. Attorney William Weinreb said that Joyce, who represented more than 100,000 residents as a state legislator, ran his public office as a "criminal enterprise."
"He had a duty to serve (his constituents) honestly, and he violated that duty by accepting bribes and kickbacks in exchange for his official action," Weinreb said.
Joyce pleaded not guilty in Worcester's federal courthouse Friday before being released on $250,000 bond.
His attorney, Howard Cooper, said after Joyce's court appearance that "he's innocent of all of these charges."
"In the last few years it's been apparent across the country that the federal government has brought a number of cases against public officials which have either gone nowhere or have been rejected by juries or highly criticized by courts," Cooper told reporters.
Joyce's law office in Canton was raided by the FBI in February 2016 in what was then described as "court-authorized activity in connection with an ongoing federal investigation." Cooper said at the time that Joyce was cooperating and believed he had done nothing wrong.
Joyce, who had served as assistant majority leader and represented his district since 1998, said shortly after the investigation was announced last year that he would not seek re-election to the Senate.
Joyce is accused of participating in number of complex schemes dating back to 2010 that netted him hundreds of thousands of dollars and concealing the payments by using his law office as a "money laundering conduit." Prosecutors say he also lied to the state's ethics commission and used the panel as a "cloak of legitimacy for his corrupt schemes."
In one case, prosecutors alleged Joyce used his position to exert influence on behalf of a New York-based energy brokerage business and formed a shell company to collect secret kickbacks from the firm. In another scheme, prosecutors say Joyce pressured a local planning board to approve a waiver sought by a developer, who gave Joyce a Jeep from one of the developer's car dealerships.
The indictment also accuses Joyce of taking legislative action to aid a coffee franchise whose owner was paying him tens of thousands of dollars for "purported legal fees" and providing him with hundreds of pounds of free coffee.
Weinreb would not say whether charges would be brought against any of the companies accused to be involved in the schemes but said the investigation remains ongoing.
In 2015, then-Senate President Stan Rosenberg asked the ethics commission to review Joyce's conduct after The Boston Globe reported on potential conflicts of interest focusing on whether he used his position to boost his law practice.
In an unrelated case last year, Joyce agreed to pay nearly $5,000 to resolve issues raised by state campaign finance regulators, including using campaign funds for his son's 2014 high school graduation party. Joyce said there had been no finding of wrongdoing on his part in that case.
The arrest is the second blow to the state Senate in the past week.
Rosenberg announced Monday he was stepping aside as president of the chamber during a Senate Ethics Committee investigation into the circumstances surrounding reported sexual misconduct allegations by several men against his husband, Bryon Hefner.
Harriette Chandler, a Worcester Democrat who is serving as acting Senate president, said in a statement about Joyce that she's confident the "justice system will come to a fair and just conclusion in the days to come."
Republican Gov. Charlie Baker called the allegations against Joyce disturbing.
"People in public life need to respect the offices they hold and that means not using them for personal gain, and if the feds believe there's enough there to justify an indictment then the investigation needs to be thorough and move forward accordingly," Baker said.