BOSTON – The former president of the Massachusetts state police union and the organization's top lobbyist were arrested Wednesday in an alleged kickback and bribery scheme involving the misuse of thousands of dollars in union dues.
Dana Pullman, ex-president of the State Police Association of Massachusetts, is accused of using the union's debit card to pay for personal expenses. Feds said Pullman used the union's bank account like his "own personal piggy bank," embezzling funds to pay for romantic gifts and a trip to Miami with an unnamed woman with whom he was allegedly having an affair.
Pullman, 57, and Anne Lynch, 68, a prominent state lobbyist, are charged with federal conspiracy, wire fraud and obstruction. The FBI arrested them separately at their Massachusetts homes around 6 a.m. to 7 a.m. Wednesday. The charges carry a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.
Pullman racked up more than $42,000 on the union's debit card to pay for trips with his girlfriend, expensive meals during which the two shared caviar, payments on a new vehicle and iTunes purchases, prosecutors said.
"Entrusted with representing the interests of Massachusetts state police, troopers and sergeants, Pullman, with Lynch's help, betrayed that trust to line his own pockets with association funds," U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts Andrew Lelling said at a news conference announcing the charges. "In fact, since the union's primary source of income is the dues of its members, Pullman essentially took money from the pockets of fellow state police."
After their arrests, Pullman and Lynch appeared together in Boston fedearl court before Chief Magistrate Judge Jennifer Boal, who released them each on a $25,000 bond. The judge restricted their rights to possess a firearm and their travel beyond the Northeast. A hearing is set for Dec. 17.
Pullman is accused of defrauding the State Police Association of Massachusetts and its more than 1,500 members of approximately $75,000 for his personal benefit. Allegations, which span from 2012 to 2018, are detailed in a criminal complaint filed against the two defendants:
- After securing a $22 million settlement in a lawsuit between the police union and state of Massachusetts, federal prosecutors said, Pullman ensured Lynch was overcompensated to the tune of $35,000 in total compensation. In exchange, Pullman allegedly received a $20,000 kickback from Lynch.
- In 2014 and 2015, Pullman and Lynch worked to defraud two unnamed companies seeking to receive contracts from the state, according to prosecutors. They said Pullman "pressured" the companies to hire Lynch as a lobbyist. In return, prosecutors said, Lynch paid Pullman two $5,000 kickbacks.
- Pullman is accused of using the union's debt card to pay for $9,300 in flowers for family and friends, $8,000 in restaurant expenses, $2,000 in iTunes purchases and $21,371 for two down payments on a 2017 Chevrolet Suburban valued at nearly $76,000. Prosecutors said he spent thousands more on travel, including the Miami trip, which involved a $2,113 stay at the Palms Hotel in Miami Beach. Pullman encouraged members of the union's board to file false expense reports, the complaint alleges.
"Through flagrant and repeated acts of greed, Pullman treated the (union's) bank account like his own personal piggy bank," said Kristina O'Connell, special agent in charge of the Internal Revenue Service's criminal investigation unit in Boston.
Pullman and Lynch took steps to obstruct the investigation by federal authorities when they became aware of it, Lelling said. The complaint alleges the two defendants tried to manipulate financial records and Lynch lied in interviews with law enforcement.
In a statement to The Associated Press, Pullman's attorney, Martin Weinberg, said his client strongly denies the charges and “never acted in a manner that compromised his loyalty to his union.”
Lynch's firm, Lynch Associates, has earned nearly $1 million in legal fees paid by the union since 2008, according to federal authorities. Lynch's attorney did not comment on the charges.
The Massachusetts State Police department has been embroiled in a scandal about overtime pay that led to charges against seven former and current troopers.
"I realize it has been a rough few years for the rank-and-file of the Massachusetts state police," Lelling said. "This kind of corruption just adds to their burden."
Pullman, first hired by the Massachusetts State Police in 1987 as a trooper, became the union's president in 2012. He resigned last September amid an FBI investigation into possible illegal reimbursement of political donations made by union members. He cited "personal reasons" for his departure.
Joseph Bonavolonta, special agent in charge of the FBI's Boston Field Division, said the initial investigation expanded in July into a "wide-ranging review of other allegations and malfeasance."
That's when, he said, the FBI started looking specifically into the actions of Pullman and Lynch. He said the investigation involved dozens of interviews and hundreds of documents.
"Simply put, both Pullman and Lynch were being paid to look out for the best interests of union members, but instead they were only looking out for themselves," Bonavolonta said.
He said the charges show a "rigged system" for companies seeking to do business with the state, and he accused Pullman of leading the union "like a criminal enterprise" and running it as an "old-school mob boss."
"Both Pullman and Lynch lied, cheated and tried to obstruct our investigation at the expense of those hardworking troopers and taxpayers," Bonavolonta said. "Their actions were without a doubt disgraceful, underhanded and fueled by sheer greed."
The FBI's investigation into the kickback scheme is ongoing, meaning more charges could come.
Reach Joey Garrison on Twitter: @joeygarrison
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Dana Pullman, former Mass. police union chief, arrested; lobbyist, too