US Atty: Joyce ran office as ‘criminal enterprise’
Former lawmaker accused of peddling influence for cash
FORMER STATE SEN. BRIAN JOYCE was arrested Friday and indicted for engaging in multiple influence-peddling schemes which netted him up to $1 million in fees that he went to elaborate lengths to conceal.
FBI officials, who have been investigating Joyce for two years, said they arrested the former lawmaker before dawn at his home in Westport and took him away in handcuffs. He was arraigned later in the day in Worcester. His attorney could not be reached for comment.
William D. Weinreb, the acting US Attorney for Massachusetts, said at a press conference at the federal courthouse in Boston that the 55-year-old Joyce was charged with running his office as a “criminal enterprise.” The indictment cited more than 100 counts of racketeering, extortion, honest services fraud, money laundering, and conspiracy to defraud the Internal Revenue Service. Weinreb said the investigation is continuing.
Weinreb credited the Boston Globe for helping to bring about the prosecution. The Globe ran many stories on Joyce’s business dealings. Many of the stories didn’t end up playing any role in the indictment. But the narrative thread of the stories – that Joyce used his position as a public official to generate income for his law business – became the narrative thread of the indictment.
These sorts of public corruption cases have become much harder to prove of late. Former Virginia Gov. Robert McDonnell was originally convicted in 2014 of accepting more than $175,000 in loans and gifts in exchange for helping a businessman advance a dietary supplement his company had developed. But the US Supreme Court ruled in 2016 that arranging meetings, calling people, and throwing a product launch party for a benefactor did not qualify as “officials acts” under the federal bribery statute, and overturned the decision.
In Joyce’s case, he is accused of filing legislation benefitting clients and urging local and some state officials to take “official actions” that would benefit businesses who were secretly paying the lawmaker for his help. The indictment doesn’t suggest the businesses Joyce helped were providing fraudulent services. Instead, Joyce is portrayed as a political-fixer-for-hire. “We believe Mr. Joyce was greedy, plain and simple,” said Harold Shaw, the special agent in charge of the FBI’s Boston office.
Joyce served almost 20 years in the Legislature and decided in February 2016, after the FBI raided his law office, that he would not stand for reelection. He also relinquished his position as assistant majority leader.
In the US Supreme Court’s ruling in the McDonnell case, the court held that an official act “must involve a formal exercise of governmental power that is similar in nature to a lawsuit before a court, a determination before an agency, or a hearing before a committee.” The court said the targeted public official must make a decision or take an action, or use “his official position to exert pressure on another official to perform an ‘official act,’ or to advise another official, knowing or intending that such advice with form the basis for an ‘official act’ by another official.”
The federal government alleged that Joyce took official acts himself and advised others, primarily officials at the local level, to take official acts. The indictment said Joyce entered into a financial arrangement with an unidentified energy broker company, which advised municipalities and businesses on energy purchases. Joyce is accused of helping the company line up Randoloph, Easton, East Bridgewater, Holbrook, Southbridge, and Stonehill College in Easton as clients. In return, he received a percentage of the payments collected by the energy broker, a total of $800,000, according to the indictment.
Joyce also wrote a letter to the state Department of Public Utilities in 2014 urging the agency to provide guidance on a law that had been passed that same year. The indictment suggests the letter could have paved the way for more widespread sales of natural gas, which could have led to more commissions from the energy broker company.
The indictment alleged Joyce also submitted a legal brief to the DPU on behalf of his client’s efforts to install solar panels at Stonehill College. Ultimately, the DPU chose not to delay or halt the solar installation.
The former senator at various times contacted the State Ethics Commission for guidance on whether his actions on behalf of the energy broker were legal. In one instance, he asked whether he could appear before the DPU on behalf of his client. The Ethics Commission, according to the indictment, said he could represent his client before the DPU but could not receive any compensation in return. In fact, Joyce was going to be paid whether he appeared before the DPU or not, the indictment said.
The indictment said Joyce around 2012 approached a developer about building four houses on property occupied by the Milton Women’s Club at 90 Reedsdale Street. Joyce’s job was to convince the Milton Planning Board to allow the developer to tear down the club and put up housing. The indictment disclosed a series of actions taken by Joyce as part of a successful effort to sway members of the planning board, including inserting language in a State House bond bill directing $1 million toward a project that was important to the chairman of the board.
According to Milton town records, the developer, who was not identified in the indictment, appears to be John Morrill, the part owner of two car dealerships in Hanover and Franklin.
The indictment said Joyce concealed his involvement in the land negotiations, calling himself a “pro bono broker” in a 2013 email to the planning board chair. At a public meeting of the planning board, the developer was asked about Joyce’s involvement. “I have not paid him $1,” the developer is quoted as saying in the indictment. “He’s doing this because he was trying to help out the Women’s Club.”
In fact, Joyce received a Jeep costing $34,700 from the developer and Joyce and the developer engaged in an elaborate scheme to make it appear as if he purchased the vehicle when in fact the developer fronted him the money for it. The indictment said Joyce’s wife was also retained as the sales broker for the four homes built on the property.
The indictment alleged Joyce pushed legislation and lobbied the state Division of Insurance seeking the creation of an energy financing program sought by his client, an insurance company which appears to be Energi Inc. of Peabody. In return, Joyce’s law firm received $377,169 in fees from Energi and he personally received a check for $5,000 a month from 2012 to 2016. The indictment said these payments were not disclosed on Joyce’s filings with the Ethics Commission.
Joyce, according to the indictment, also was allowed to purchase – for $471,520 — 65,000 shares of Energi stock at a private offering. The indictment alleges the stock purchase was falsely reported as a tax-exempt retirement account rollover on Joyce’s tax return.
The indictment alleged that Joyce filed legislation and amendments benefitting a Dunkin’ Donuts franchisee (identified by the Globe as Carlos Andrade) in return for legal fees and lots and lots of free coffee and food. When the Globe began asking questions about the free coffee, the indictment alleged that Joyce and the franchisee created an invoice and backdated it to the time when the merchandise was provided. Joyce also wrote a check paying for the merchandise and backdated it as well.The indictment also alleges that a lobbyist working for a Pennsylvania solar firm sought out Joyce’s help in obtaining a permit to install solar panels in West Bridgewater. Joyce, according to the indictment, responded: “Yeah, I think I can get this permit for you. It would be through my law firm, and our fee would be $25,000.”
The Pennsylvania firm ultimately decided not to hire Joyce.