Saturday, 2:15 PM
Former Middlesex register of probate faces new charges
By Milton Valencia, Globe Staff
John Buonomo, the former Middlesex Register of Probate who resigned
last year after allegedly stealing office funds, faces new charges of
funneling more than $100,000 of his campaign finance money for personal
Buonomo, 57, a Somerville politician who has been living in Newton,
was indicted by a Middlesex Superior Court jury today on charges of
larceny, personal use of campaign funds, and willfully misleading
investigators. He is slated to be arraigned at a later date.
The owner of a Somerville printing business, Marc Piro, was also
indicted for scheming with Buonomo to set up fake transactions that allowed
Buonomo to withdraw funds from his campaign account. Piro, 46, of
Wilmington and the owner of Guy T. Piro & Sons, is also to be arraigned
at a later date.
"You might describe it as some type of money laundering," said
Attorney General Martha Coakley, whose office handled the investigation.
"(The money) was actually for fictitious jobs, for work that was never
done by Mr. Piro."
Piro was not available for comment today. A lawyer for Buonomo
did not return a message seeking comment.
According to Coakley, the printing business was only one of several
schemes Buonomo used to illegally withdraw more than $100,000 from his
campaign finance account for personal use over the last four-plus years.
At times, Buonomo would submit false reimbursement requests for money
that he said he spent on postage, officials said. Those requests totaled
More often, he allegedly schemed with Piro to write checks for phony
print jobs. Piro allegedly created fake invoices and would return the money
to Buonomo. Buonomo would then allegedly pay him $500 each time.
According to campaign finance records, Piro has done work for
political campaigns before, but Coakley said he knew in this case the
scheme that Buonomo was orchestrating. According to finance records, Piro
has given Buonomo's campaign at least $1,000 in donations since 2006.
Michael J. Sullivan, director of the state Office of Campaign and
Political Finance, which conducted the initial probe, said investigators
started scrutinizing Buonomo's campaign reports when officials noticed
large transactions for things like postage and print jobs. Throughout the
time Buonomo was paying for the fake services, he was not involved in any
election, which raised suspicious, Sullivan said. He said his office began
investigating in April 2008 and referred its findings to Coakley after the
fall election for the register post. By law, the office cannot forward
findings of an investigation until an investigation is complete.
Also, Buonomo appeared to try and thwart the investigation by
altering bank records and forging invoices, Sullivan said.
"I think that looking at some of the documents... raised a
question," Sullivan said.
Buonomo resigned as register in September, a month after State Police
surveillance cameras led to his arrest in the theft of thousands of dollars
from copy machines. The machines were located in the Middlesex Registry of
Deeds office, which shares space with the probate office.
Buonomo was charged with more than 30 counts of breaking and entering
into a depository with intent to commit larceny, theft of public property
by a government officer, and larceny under $250. He has pleaded not guilty
and is awaiting trial in Middlesex Superior Court. He faces up to 20 years
in jail on some of the charges.
As register of probate, Buonomo oversaw a relatively obscure office
that handles records concerning estates, child custody, divorce, and
adoptions. He was first elected to the post in 2000, but his political
career began long before in Somerville. He is a former county administrator
and one-time member of the Somerville School Committee and Somerville Board
of Aldermen. He ran unsuccessfully for mayor in Somerville.
Buonomo still has approximately $136,000 in his campaign account.
Since 2003, he has raised $429,345 in donations, more than any of his
counterparts in the state.
Milton Valencia can be reached at email@example.com.