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

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Guilty plea expected in Mass. campaign fund case

BOSTON — A former senior official with a major Boston real estate development firm is expected to plead guilty to underwriting illegal campaign contributions to local, state and federal candidates.

Martin Raffol, 54, former executive vice president of Winn Residential Co., was charged last month. Federal prosecutors said he encouraged the firm’s vendors to make donations to local, state and federal candidates and then improperly reimbursed them.

Raffol, of Natick, has a change-of-plea hearing scheduled in U.S. District Court on Tuesday afternoon. He was charged in an “information,” which is generally used when a plea agreement has been reached.

His lawyers, Douglas Brooks and John Commissio, did not immediately return calls seeking comment. A spokeswoman for U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz confirmed the change-of-plea hearing.

In a statement released by his lawyers after he was charged, Raffol appeared to admit wrongdoing but under pressure from the firm.

“As an employee, Marty was directed to raise large amounts of money for politicians. The pressure was intense and in his attempts to satisfy these directives, some of the contributions violated federal campaign laws and regulations,” Brooks said. “Marty never personally benefited from these efforts.”

Prosecutors said Raffol tried to boost contributions to candidates who supported Winn’s projects by soliciting donations from the company’s vendors. He then allegedly reimbursed the vendors, violating laws requiring accurate donor disclosure.

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.

Winn spokesman Alan 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. Eisner said neither the company nor its executives knew of the reimbursements or authorized them.

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.

will not be displayed