Former State Sen. Brian Joyce Charged With Accepting $1M in Bribes, Kickbacks

Former Massachusetts state Sen. Brian Joyce was charged Friday with using his office for personal profit by accepting up to $1 million in bribes and kickbacks and hiding the money in a shell company and disguising it as "legal fees."

The 55-year-old 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 him 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 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.

"The nature and scope of the offenses delineated in the indictment are disgraceful, violating numerous federal and state laws as well as the public trust, and should be addressed swiftly and effectively by our criminal justice system,” said Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr in a statement.

Joyce appeared before a federal magistrate in Worcester Friday afternoon, where he pleaded not guilty to the charges.

A judge ordered him to be released on $250,000 bond, which must be collected over the next 7-10 days.

In addition, Joyce will also surrender his passport and can only travel between Mass. and Rhode Island.

“He’s innocent of all of these charges, and he is and he expects that’s what will happen in court,” said Joyce’s attorney Howard Cooper.

Joyce had nothing to say outside federal court after his arraignment.

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, said shortly after the investigation was announced last year that he would not seek re-election to the Senate. He had represented his district since 1998.

Joyce is accused of participating in a 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 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 currently serving as acting Senate president, released a brief statement Friday following Joyce's arrest.

"Law enforcement has done its job today," said Chandler. "This case now moves to the courts, and I am confident that 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.

Joyce faces up to 20 years in prison and up to $2 million dollars in fines if convicted.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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