BOSTON (AP) – Imprisoned former Chelsea Housing Authority Director Michael McLaughlin, 67, of Dracut, was indicted again yesterday, this time by a federal grand jury for conspiring with two other accomplices to rig the inspection process of federally funded housing units in Chelsea.
The grand jury also indicted James Fitzpatrick, 63, of Acton, and Bernard Morosco, 50, of Utica, N.Y. for impeding the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s assessments of the public housing units maintained by the Chelsea Housing Authority. Fitzpatrick is the Chelsea Housing Authority’s former assistant director for modernization and capital planning, while Morosco was hired as an outside consultant to help prepare for the inspections.
McLaughlin is a former Methuen town manager from 1990 to 1992 who was paid $360,000 a year to run the Chelsea Housing Authority before resigning under fire.
According to the indictment, they conspired to defraud the United States and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) by impairing, impeding, and defeating the proper operation of the physical condition assessment by HUD’s Real Estate Assessment Center (REAC), which relies on a statistically valid random sample of units to inspect.
The indictment detailed by U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz alleges that from 2006 through November 2011 Morosco had access to a secure database that he used to tip off McLaughlin and Fitzpatrick which units would be randomly inspected by HUD. McLaughlin would then direct “SWAT” teams of CHA employees to make repairs in those units.
According to the indictment, pursuant to federal regulations to determine whether a public housing authority is meeting the standard for its residents of conditions that are “decent, safe, sanitary, and in good repair,” REAC is required to “provide for an independent physical inspection of a public housing authority’s property or properties that includes, at a minimum, a statistically valid sample of the units in the PHA’s public housing portfolio to determine the extent of compliance with the standard.”
REAC inspections are conducted by independent contractors who have received training from REAC on the inspection protocol and regulations and have been certified. Once certified, an inspector is given an inspector number and password to access the secure REAC server which contains data on all public housing authorities and also later enables the inspector to generate a random sample of units at the scheduled date of the inspection.
The charges against all three men carry a maximum penalty of five years in prison, three years of supervised release and a $250,000 fine. McLaughlin, is currently serving a three-year sentence at a federal prison in Pennsylvania.