Novak guilty of laundering drug profits
GOP official may face prison term
The former vice chairman of the Massachusetts Republican State Committee pleaded guilty to federal money-laundering charges yesterday in a scheme to "cleanse" drug money for a legal client.
Lawrence P. Novak entered his pleas as he was about to go on trial in US District Court.
Novak, 57, was arrested in 2005 after investigators said he offered to launder drug profits for Scott Holyoke, a client of Novak's who was awaiting sentencing on federal drug trafficking charges and who agreed to be a cooperating witness against Novak.
The charges were unrelated to Novak's GOP role. He resigned his post as vice chairman of the Republican State Committee shortly after his arrest but had served as a regular committee member since winning election in 2008.
According to the indictment, Novak, a Brockton lawyer, offered to have Holyoke sign false affidavits in an attempt to invalidate some of his earlier state convictions. That would reduce the sentence he would face in his federal case. Novak also offered to launder $107,000 in cash he knew Holyoke had made illegally from selling drugs. He said he would take $60,000 as a legal fee and offered to "cleanse" another $47,000 Holyoke had in a safe deposit box.
An undercover agent from the Internal Revenue Service who posed as Holyoke's aunt gave Novak about $107,000 in cash and told him it was drug proceeds. Novak was arrested after he took the money to Eastern Bank in Brockton, deposited $77,000 into an existing account and withdrew $30,000 in bank checks and money orders.
Novak pleaded guilty to two counts of money laundering. He also pleaded guilty under the Alford Doctrine to a single count of obstruction of justice, maintaining his innocence but conceding prosecutors had enough evidence to convict him.
Assistant US Attorney Brian Kelly said prosecutors had planned to play taped conversations for the jury in which Novak was heard telling Holyoke, "You need to clean the money."
Novak's attorney, William Cintolo, said Novak decided to plead guilty because of Holyoke's expected testimony.
"We had an informant who was going to make certain assertions. The question was, would a jury believe him? In light of that, we thought it was in his best interests to plead," Cintolo said.
Novak will be sentenced on May 13. Kelly said federal guidelines suggest a prison term of about five years. Barney Keller, a spokesman for the GOP committee, said that under the committee's bylaws, Novak will be automatically expelled because of his felony convictions.