Former Chelsea Housing Authority chief to plead guilty to concealing inflated salary

Chelsea, MA -- 10/27/11 -- Michael E. McLaughlin, Executive Director of Chelsea Housing Authority, stands in front of the Chelsea Housing Authority's Scrivano apartment development on October 27, 2011. (Kayana Szymczak for The Boston Globe)
Michael E. McLaughlin stood in front of a Chelsea Housing Authority building in October 2011.
Kayana Szymczak/Globe Staff

Former Chelsea Housing Authority chief Michael E. McLaughlin has agreed to plead guilty to four federal charges of deliberately concealing his huge salary from state and federal regulators from 2008 until he resigned in 2011, according to an agreement filed in federal court today.

“Defendant expressly and unequivocally admits that he committed the crimes charged in all counts of the information, did so knowingly and intentionally, and is in fact guilty of those offenses,” federal prosecutors said in the document that was signed by both US Attorney Carmen Ortiz, and McLaughlin and his attorney.

McLaughlin, who has been criticized by public officials as building up his power and salary at the expense of the low-income people he was supposed to serve, was charged last month in a criminal information filed in federal court, a document used by prosecutors to outline the charges against defendants — typically when a guilty plea is imminent.

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The agreement said that at the “earliest practicable date” McLaughlin “shall waive indictment and plead guilty.”

Under the agreement, McLaughlin also promised to “cooperate fully with law enforcement agents and government attorneys” providing “complete and truthful information to all law enforcement personnel.”

If prosecutors determine he provided them with “substantial assistance,” the agreement says, they will file a motion to reduce his sentence below the recommended range under federal sentencing guidelines.

The prosecutors noted, though, that the judge could ignore the sentencing guidelines and impose a sentence on each count up to the maximum of 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release, and a $250,000 fine.

McLaughlin, 67, of Dracut, allegedly deliberately underreported his annual salary by up to $164,000 a year in mandatory reports to state and federal housing regulators.

McLaughlin resigned in late 2011 after the Globe reported his oversized salary. By 2011, McLaughlin was making $360,000 a year, according to an analysis by the newspaper. The Globe also determined he was in line for one of the largest pensions in state history, up to $278,000 a year.

The housing authority’s board of directors repeatedly approved generous pay increases for McLaughlin without actually knowing his salary, the Globe found.

At the time, McLaughlin admitted to a Globe reporter that he had deliberately underreported his salary in reports to state and federal regulators, attributing the misleading reports to “the rebel in me.”

Attorney General Martha Coakley has said her office is pursuing a criminal investigation that has focused, in part, on McLaughlin’s fund-raising for Lieutenant Governor Timothy P. Murray.