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Storms cause sewer overflows in Boston, public advised to avoid nearby waters

After experiencing two major storms which brought snow and rain to the Boston area this week, some of the city’s sewers have overflowed.

Local News

The Boston Public Health Commission (BPHC) said Thursday that the city had three sewer overflows overnight Wednesday that could pose a public health risk. Residents should avoid contact with the affected bodies of water for at least 48 hours, it said.

This often happens when a large storm overwhelms the area’s sewer system, causing rainwater to mix with wastewater and leak into a nearby body of water, the BPHC said.

The first sewer overflow happened at 2:40 a.m. Thursday where the Mystic River meets Chelsea Creek near the Andrew McArdle Bridge in East Boston. It lasted until 6:50 a.m. Thursday morning.

The second sewer overflow happened at 3:05 a.m. at the Prison Point Treatment and Storage Facility in Charlestown near the North Washington Bridge. It lasted until 6:29 a.m. Thursday morning.

The third sewer overflow happened at 4:05 a.m. at the Fort Point Channel between the South End and the Seaport at Albany Street and West 4th Street. It lasted until 6:25 a.m. Thursday morning.

State law requires local public health departments to notify the public when sewer overflows pose a public health risk.

Mass. reports 5,797 COVID-19 cases and 168 deaths from the past week

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health is no longer releasing daily COVID-19 reports. The following report represents seven days of data beginning Thursday, January 19.

Newly reported cases: 5,797

Total confirmed cases: 2,000,273

Newly reported deaths: 168

Total confirmed deaths: 21,826

Newly reported tests: 68,613

Total tests: 49,265,065

Percent positivity (seven-day average): 9.35%

Hospitalized patients: 863

Hospitalized patients who are fully vaccinated: 570

Hospitalized patients who are primarily hospitalized for COVID-19 related illness: 266

ICU patients: 86

Intubated patients: 28

View an interactive version of the state’s dashboard here.

Body found washed up on Marblehead beach

A dead body washed up on the shore of a Marblehead beach Thursday.

Marblehead Police responded to a beach at the end of Edgemere Road at about 4 p.m., the department said in a brief statement.

Police said the body appeared to have been in the water for a “significant” amount of time.

The discovery was made by resident Ellie Tomlinson while walking her golden retriever near her waterfront house, the Marblehead Current reported.

Tomlinson initially thought it was a Halloween decoration.

“I had to do a double take,” she told the Current. “I then saw a scarf.”

More officers arrived at around 5:15 p.m., and at 5:30 p.m. two vehicles from the Chief Medical Examiner’s office came to the beach, according to the Current.

No other information has been released at this time.

What convinced Adam Duvall to join the Red Sox? New outfielder explains ‘several selling points’

For Adam Duvall, there wasn’t just one overarching factor that led him to ink a one-year contract with the Red Sox Tuesday.

Rather, there were several elements that convinced the outfielder to sign on the dotted line.

“There were actually several selling points,” Duvall told reporters, via a video from CBS Boston. “One, obviously, the opportunity to play every day. The chance to be a part of an organization that has a lot of tradition, has had a lot of success, a lot of good players, good manager. So that was a huge selling point there.

“Another selling point was guys reaching out from the team and around the organization letting me know that they were looking forward to playing with me and things of those sorts. So, I think it all kind of came together. It was a culmination of different things, but I couldn’t be more excited to be playing with the Red Sox and to be a part of this ride.”

Duvall acknowledged multiple Red Sox players and coaches for leading the recruiting effort, including Kiké Hernandez, Justin Turner, and Alex Cora.

Regular playing time will be available for Duvall in Boston’s center field, especially with Hernandez expected to slot over to shortstop.

Duvall won a Gold Glove in right field in 2021, with just 75 of his 722 career games spent at center. But during an injury-shortened 2022 season, 44 out of Duvall’s 86 games were in the middle of the outfield.

For Duvall, the most daunting assignment defensively will come with the various quirks that present themselves at a ballpark like Fenway.

“I think the biggest challenge will be the dimensions,” Duvall said. “I’ve even thought about going back and watching certain plays and how I can learn to play the ball off the wall and the ball in the gap and those things before I even step foot in the stadium.

“I’m thinking of ways I can try to familiarize myself with the park and the dimensions and how to play certain balls before I even get there. There will be a small learning curve there, because it’s a very unique park.”

Those dimensions stand to benefit Duvall at the plate. The 34-year-old forward has plenty of pop, clubbing 30-plus home runs in three seasons. And with the Green Monster just 310 feet from home plate, the right-handed slugger should do some damage.

Of the 163 home runs of Duvall’s resume, 103 have sailed to the pull-side, as noted by The Boston Globe’s Julian McWilliams. 

“It’s definitely something I find intriguing and get a little bit excited about,” Duvall said of batting at Fenway. “So I definitely think I can use that to my advantage. I’ve been working on my swing all offseason. I’m excited to take what I’ve got into that ballpark and into that league and try to put some barrels on the ball.”

‘Several’ cars stolen in Boston by thieves swiping keys from gym lockers, police say

Boston police are warning residents to lock up their belongings after “several” cars have been stolen while the owners are working out at local gyms.

Police say the thieves are stealing the cars by taking people’s keys out of unlocked lockers while they use gyms and health centers around the city.

The suspects, who are usually underage, get into the gyms by creating day passes using fake information, or by simply asking to use the bathroom, police said in a news release.

Once inside, police said, the thieves search for unlocked lockers and rifle through people’s belongings, stealing car keys and other valuables, and then use the keys to steal the cars nearby.

Police said it’s unclear whether the Boston thefts are connected to one another, or if they are connected to similar thefts that have happened in other cities and towns in the Boston area.

Anyone who thinks they are a victim of such a crime or who has information about the thefts is urged to contact the BPD Auto Theft Unit at 617-343-4430.

Bruins fans should be all in on the team’s potentially historic season

COMMENTARY

One of the joys of watching what is shaping up to be a historically great season is that all concerns real or imagined have been muted along the way.

The Bruins rocketed out of the gate even while Brad Marchand and Charlie McAvoy were working their way back from major injuries. When they did return, the team’s success in their absence allowed them room to shake off the rust. David Krejci returned from his one-year, Bruce Cassidy-dodging sabbatical as skilled and savvy as ever. Linus Ullmark seized the No. 1 goalie role and played spectacularly. Hampus Lindstrom emerged as an elite defenseman. Jim Montgomery proved the right voice and tactician to replace Cassidy. And on and on it has gone with the good news and wise decisions. Save for the shameful Mitchell Miller debacle, just about everything that could go right has. Actually, check that. Just about everything that could have gone right has gone exceptionally.

Entering Thursday night’s matchup versus the Lightning, the Bruins have won six in a row, 10 of 11, and have such a remarkable overall record – 38-5-4 – that you might find yourself reading it out loud (“thirty-eight, five, and four”) just to convince yourself that it is indeed real.

This much is also real and true: history is at their fingertips. Bruins have already reached 80 points, the fastest team in league history to do so. They are on pace to surpass the all-time points record, set by the iconic 1976-77 Canadiens, who went 60-8-12 for 132 points. At this pace, they could submit the best regular-season performance in NHL history.

Some of your friends and neighbors might try to spin-o-rama that into a concern. Boston fans ought to be 19 years past giving a hoot about curses at this point, but it does not go without notice that the Presidents’ Trophy winner – the team with that accumulates the most points during the regular season – has gone on to win the Stanley Cup only eight times since the league established the award during the 1985-86 season.  The last Presidents’ Trophy winner to raise the Stanley Cup was the 2012-13 Chicago Blackhawks, a scenario remembered around here all too well given that the Bruins were their final foe.

The Bruins’ opponent Thursday night is a few seasons removed from being something of a cautionary tale, at least if you believe being the best team in the league during the regular season somehow becomes a hindrance in the playoffs.  The 2018-19 Tampa Bay Lightning were regular-season juggernaut, going 62-16-4 and tying the 1995-96 Red Wings for the most wins in league history. But they’re forever remembered not for those 62 regular-season wins, but for their zero wins in the postseason. They were wiped out in the first round in four games by the Columbus Blue Jackets, who had 15 fewer wins in the regular season.

That’s a worst-case scenario for what could happen to the Bruins, but please do not take it as the likely scenario, or one they should fear.  They’ve done an exceptional job of avoiding speed bumps so far, but Montgomery and every player in that locker room knows there will be challenges along the way.  Perhaps this four-game road gauntlet versus the Lightning, Panthers, Hurricanes, and Maple Leafs will be illuminating. Perhaps a small slump will knock them off their record pace before the playoffs begin. And the playoffs themselves will tangle our guts with their tension. It’s why the Stanley Cup playoffs are the best tournament in sports.

The Bruins are prepared for all of this. Their roster is well-rounded, versatile, and deep. They have veterans – led by Patrice Bergerson, one of the most admirable athletes in this city’s history – who know what it takes to win a Cup,  and can tell the younger players about the bond this city has with its champions.

They have the right coach, too. Montgomery went 42-1-2 in his senior year at the University of Maine, winning the national championship. He coached the 2016-17 University of Denver team to a 33-7-4 record and a national title. And now he’s leading a Bruins team with a staggeringly impressive record.  It’s kind of a trend with him.

The Bruins should embrace every challenge in front of them. This has a chance to be a historic season, a team remembered among – or as – the best ever. Keep winning, and winning again. Collect the Presidents’ Trophy, and then a few months later, hoist the trophy that really matters.  Go for history. All of it.

Be greedy, Bruins fans. Want it all. This team is capable of fulfilling everything.

Dorchester wholesale bakery cited for over $440,000 in wage and labor violations

A Dorchester wholesale bakery and five temp agencies that helped staff the bakery have been cited over $440,000 for 30 wage and labor violations by the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office.

Dutch Maid Bakery, which makes baked goods for grocery stores and other retailers, owes dozens of employees restitution for its violations, the AG’s Office said.

These violations include bad payroll record keeping, not offering employees sick time, not paying workers enough for overtime work, and paying workers less than the state’s minimum wage.

The AG’s Office said in a news release Wednesday that its investigation into Dutch Maid Bakery found that the company failed to “maintain true and accurate records of its employees.”

Some of these problems included not listing the number of hours salaried employees worked on their paystubs, not having an earned sick time policy, and not informing employees of its policies as is required by law, the AG’s Office said.

Hub Personnel Services, a Dorchester temp agency that helped staff the bakery, was also cited as a result of the AG’s investigation. The AG’s Office said the agency didn’t keep accurate timesheets and records of how much money employees earned, and that any records that were kept were incomplete and inaccurate.

Additionally, the AG’s Office said, the agency didn’t offer employees sick time, didn’t provide temp workers with work, and gave inaccurate job descriptions for the positions they did hire workers for.

Both companies also didn’t compensate workers properly under state minimum wage and overtime laws, the AG’s Office said.

“Workers deserve to be paid their rightful wage – and when they aren’t, our office will hold their employer accountable,” Attorney General Andrea Campbell said in the release. “As we push for greater economic stability for our residents, tackling the issue of wage theft will remain a priority for this office.”

In total, Dutch Maid Bakery and its president and treasurer, along with Hub Personnel Services and its president, were issued 11 citations.

Local News

These citations included failure to pay minimum wage and overtime wages, failure to furnish true and accurate payroll records, failure to keep true and accurate payroll records, failure to furnish suitable pay stubs, failure to provide workers written notice of earned sick time leave, and failure to provide adequate notice of the Temporary Worker Right to Know Law to workers. 

Other Dorchester temp agencies also provided Dutch Maid Bakery with workers, including Dorchester Temp Service, General Employment Service, Amado Enterprises, and AR Services, the AG’s Office said. These companies were issued a total of 19 citations.

These citations include violations of state minimum wage and overtime laws, record-keeping laws, earned sick time laws, and temp worker’s rights laws. The temp agencies also misclassified employees as independent contractors and didn’t pay their workers on time, the AG’s Office said.

Celtics’ Jayson Tatum named a starter for 2023 NBA All-Star game

Jayson Tatum will be a starter in the 2023 NBA All-Star game, the league announced Thursday.

It will be the fourth All-Star appearance for Tatum, who is averaging 31.0 points, 8.6 rebounds, and 4.4 assists per game.

Milwaukee forward Giannis Antetokounmpo, Brooklyn forward Kevin Durant, Cleveland guard Donovan Mitchell, and Brooklyn guard Kyrie Irving will join Tatum in the East’s starting lineup.

Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James headlines the West starting lineup, along with Golden State guard Stephen Curry, Dallas guard Luka Doncic, Denver forward Nikola Jokic, and New Orleans forward Zion Williamson.

The remainder of the teams will be selected on live television on the night of the game.

The 2023 NBA All-star game is set for February 19th at 7:30 p.m. at Vivint Arena in Salt Lake City Utah.

Former Stoneham police officer and brother charged for bribery scheme

Two brothers, one a former Stoneham Police officer and the other an owner of an electrical contracting company, are facing criminal charges for allegedly running a bribery and kickback scheme that brought them millions of dollars in contracts. 

Joseph Ponzo, 49, of Stoneham, and Christopher Ponzo, 48, of North Reading were first charged in April 2022. Joseph Ponzo is a former full-time Stoneham police officer. 

They faced 13 charges related to wire fraud at the time, and a superseding indictment this week included 12 additional charges, according to the office of U.S. Attorney Rachael Rollins. Joseph Ponzo is also charged with causing false tax returns to be filed. Both brothers are charged with making false statements to government officials. 

The alleged scheme centered around Mass Save contracts. This public-private partnership, sponsored by gas and electric utility companies, distributes funds to energy conservation projects and consumers. 

State law requires utility companies to collect energy efficiency surcharges on all consumers. These dollars are then disbursed by the companies to fund energy efficiency programs throughout the state. 

As part of the Mass Save program, utility companies must select lead vendors. These vendors then approve and select contractors that perform work for customers. The contracting work is performed at no cost or at a reduced cost to customers. Instead, it is paid for by the lead vendor with Mass Save funds, according to officials. 

The Ponzo brothers allegedly paid tens of thousands of dollars in bribes, kickbacks, and other benefits to two employees of an unnamed company. The two employees were also not identified by officials. On top of the cash payments, the brothers allegedly gave a computer, home bathroom fixtures, and provided free electrical work to the employees. In exchange, prosecutors allege that the employees provided assistance to the Ponzo brothers in landing millions of dollars in Mass Save contracts. 

Prosecutors allege that, on a weekly basis from 2013 to 2017, Christopher Ponzo paid one of the unnamed employees $1,000 in cash. At times, he added cash payments ranging from $5,000 to $10,000, telling the other person that the extra money was allegedly from Joseph Ponzo for his role in the scheme. 

The employee allegedly helped Joseph Ponzo set up a shell company known as Air Tight to do insulation work and get approved as a contractor under the Mass Save program. Joseph Ponzo allegedly put his spouse’s name on Air Tight documents and contracting licenses to hide his involvement. Prosecutors allege that Joseph Ponzo collected more than $7 million under the Mass Save program, despite having no professional experience in residential insulation work. 

The first unnamed employee left their company in 2017, and the Ponzo brothers then allegedly recruited the other unnamed employee to help with the scheme from approximately 2018 through as recently as March 2022. The new employee was allegedly paid thousands of dollars in cash, and a relative of theirs was hired as part of the scheme. 

Prosecutors also allege that Joseph Ponzo helped file false tax returns from 2016 to 2019 by claiming hundreds of thousands of dollars in false business deductions. He allegedly used a company credit card to make hundreds of thousands of dollars in purchases at The Home Depot, Lowes, and Staples to disguise personal expenses as business deductions. 

Prosecutors say he claimed that these charges were business-related to his tax preparers. In reality, Joseph Ponzo allegedly used the credit card at those stores to purchase gift cards that were then used for personal expenditures. 

The two Ponzo brothers falsely denied making bribe payments to any employees of the unnamed company when interviewed by federal agents in April 2022, prosecutors allege. 

Why DeAndre Hopkins’ reported trade value is good news for the Patriots

DeAndre Hopkins has held court as an elite wide receiver in the NFL for years now.

But if the Arizona Cardinals plan on dealing the 30-year-old wideout this offseason, they may not be getting a major haul back.

According to Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer, Hopkins’ reported trade value falls well short of the steep prices that the Eagles and Dolphins paid to acquire A.J. Brown and Tyreek Hill, respectively, in 2022. 

“I think it’s going to be hard for [Cardinals GM Monti] Ossenfort to get great value for Hopkins, maybe even to the point where keeping him is a better idea than dealing him,” Breer said. “As it stands right now, if I had to ballpark it, I’d say a Day 2 pick would be what Arizona would get in return in a trade.”

Breer points out Hopkins’ age, recent injuries, and contract as the primary factors driving down his trade value.

Over the last two seasons, Hopkins has played in just 19 of a possible 34 games. He’ll turn 31 before the start of the 2023 NFL season. And if Arizona does move him, Hopkins is still due $19.45 million in cash in 2023, along with $14.92 million in 2024.

Still, Hopkins is a game-changer when he is on the field. Despite being limited to nine games last season, Hopkins reeled in 64 catches for 717 yards and three touchdowns. His 79.7 yards per game ranked 10th among all NFL wide receivers in 2022.

Even with Breer’s concerns about Hopkins’ age and injury woes, the reported asking price of a trade makes the receiver an appealing target for the Patriots. 

The Patriots are in desperate need of a No. 1 option in their receiving corps, especially a player capable of big-gain plays.

Beyond Hopkins’ potential on a Patriots offense short on deep-threat weapons, New England has the cap space ($32.8 million, per OverTheCap.com) to take on his contract in 2023 and 2024. And if the cost of a Hopkins deal is a Day 2 pick, the Patriots have options. 

New England currently has a second-round pick and third-round pick in place for 2023. The Patriots could have eight more picks from Rounds 4-7, especially if they gain compensatory picks following the departures of J.C. Jackson, Ted Karras, and Brandon Bolden last spring. 

Ossenfort has plenty of ties with New England, serving in various scouting roles with the organization from 2006-19. He was the Patriots’ director of college scouting during his last five years in Foxborough.

Beyond the familiarity between Ossenfort and Bill Belichick, New England’s head coach has been a fan of Hopkins for years now.

“He’s got tremendous ball skills,” Belichick said of Hopkins ahead of the Patriots’ meeting with Arizona earlier this season. “He catches everything. Has great hands. He’s long so he’s never covered, even if he’s covered there’s a place where the ball can be that he can get it and still make the catch. Great coordination on the sidelines. And he doesn’t really look it, but he’s a strong kid. You see him break tackles. He’s a strong kid in terms of creating separation on routes, yards after contact, tough yards like around the goal line, or that extra yard for a first down type of thing.

“He’s a smart football player. Very savvy. I’d say his ball skills are at the very elite level of guys that I’ve seen in this league. He’s up there with whoever the top guys are. The Cris Carters of the world. Guys like that. I think he’s every bit as good as anybody I’ve ever coached against.”