Prosecutors investigating whether officials helped Michael McLaughlin defraud the government at Chelsea Housing

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Federal prosecutors have launched an investigation into whether federal officials or others helped former Chelsea housing chief Michael McLaughlin defraud the government, repeatedly telling him in advance about “surprise” apartment inspections so that his agency could pass with flying colors even though the buildings were poorly maintained.

McLaughlin, who faces sentencing in June for deliberately concealing his bloated $360,000 salary from regulators for years, agreed to cooperate with prosecutors in exchange for the hope of less prison time. However, his lawyer declined to say whether McLaughlin is helping investigators, who say that millions in federal funds remain unaccounted for from McLaughlin’s decade in charge of Chelsea’s low income housing projects.

A Globe investigation suggests that McLaughlin escaped scrutiny for years in part by rigging the federal inspections that determined how closely Chelsea’s operations would be reviewed. Several agency employees said McLaughlin always received the list of 25 apartments to be inspected weeks in advance, allowing him to clean them up before the inspectors arrived.

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