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February 16, 2013

McLaughlin to plead guilty

Former Methuen town manager charged with under-reporting his salary

BOSTON — Former Methuen town manager and director of the Chelsea Housing Authority Michael McLaughlin of Dracut plans to plead guilty to four federal counts of falsely reporting his salary.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office charged McLaughlin, 67, last month with knowingly concealing his salary in annual housing authority budgets from 2008 to 2011 and submitting them to state and federal housing regulators.

Authorities allege that in Fiscal Year 2011, McLaughlin reported his annual salary as $160,415, when his actual salary was at least $283,471 and his total compensation was at least $324,896. He is also accused of falsely reporting his income in 2008, 2009 and 2010.

McLaughlin was forced to resign in November 2011, when Gov. Deval Patrick froze the assets of the agency after the Boston Globe reported McLaughlin’s under-reporting of his salary.

Under state law, public employ­ees are liable to forfeit pensions if convicted of crimes in the performance of their ­duties. Currently McLaughlin’s pension is estimated at $278,000 a year, according to the Boston Globe.

A plea agreement filed in court Friday says McLaughlin will plead guilty to all four charges. A hearing is scheduled Tuesday in U.S. District Court.

If convicted of the charges, McLaughlin could receive a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, followed by three years of supervised release and a fine of up to $250,000 on each count.

McLaughlin has had a long and controversial career in local politics, before his two-year stint as Methuen town manager in the early ’90s.

“In all my life in politics, from the Lowell City Council to the U.S. Senate, no one worries me more than Michael McLaughlin,” the late-U.S. Sen. Paul Tsongas, a longtime McLaughlin adversary, once said.

In 1970, McLaughlin, then just 24, was elected state representative. Five years later, came his first brush with the law when the Middlesex District Attorney’s office investigated him for allegedly pressuring Billerica businesses into making campaign contributions while he was a state representative. The case was eventually dismissed.

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