Former Mass. real estate executive expected pleads guilty in campaign fund scheme

By Lyle Moran, AP
Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Ex-exec pleads guilty in Mass. campaign fund case

BOSTON — A former senior official with a major Boston real estate development firm pleaded guilty Tuesday to underwriting illegal campaign contributions to local, state and federal candidates and to witness tampering.

Martin Raffol, former vice president of Winn Residential Co., entered the pleas in U.S. District Court in Boston.

Witness tampering, the most serious charge, carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.

Raffol also pleaded guilty to one count of concealing information from the Federal Election Commission, which carries a maximum five years in prison.

He is to be sentenced Dec. 8.

Prosecutors alleged that Raffol generated $30,000 in illegal donations to candidates for state and local offices, including governor, lieutenant governor and the mayor of Boston, plus more than $12,000 to U.S. House candidates, including Newton Democrat Barney Frank. They also said Raffol told a federal informant to lie if authorities questioned him about the campaign contribution scheme.

Raffol’s attorney Douglas Brooks said in a statement following the plea that Raffol, 54, was just following the orders of executives at Winn by asking vendors to contribute to politicians.

“Marty was not trying to gain any kind of political advantage or leverage, nor does he have any interest in politics,” he said.

Brooks said Raffol decided to reimburse the vendors because they could no longer afford the contributions Winn officials expected them to make.

Winn spokesman Alan Eisner said neither the company nor its executives knew of the reimbursements or authorized them. The company has taken actions to prevent the reoccurrence of Raffol’s actions, he said.

Eisner previously said that Raffol was fired after he was charged. He had been on leave since late last year when the company learned of the allegations.

Lanny Breuer, head of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Criminal Division, said the U.S. Justice Department would prosecute anyone who tried to evade campaign finance laws.

“Hiding the true source of campaign funds from election authorities and the public fundamentally impacts the transparency of our democratic system of governance,” he said in a statement.

Winn Residential Co. provides management services to various real estate holdings, including public housing in the Roxbury and Dorchester sections of Boston. Raffol would solicit campaign contributions for candidates at various levels of government who might support the company’s projects, according to prosecutors.

Federal prosecutors said that between September 2003 and October 2009, Raffol encouraged the firm’s vendors to make thousands of dollars in donations to such candidates and then reimbursed the vendors so that the sources of the contributions were hidden from federal, state and local elections officials.

His activities allowed Winn to attempt to increase its political clout in hopes of securing public financing for its projects, prosecutors said.

Winn Residential and other Winn entities have been involved in high-profile city projects, including an aborted effort to put an $810 million development in airspace over the Massachusetts Turnpike.

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