Former Stoneham police officer and brother charged for bribery scheme

Joseph and Christopher Ponzo allegedly began the scheme, which centered on Mass Save contracts, in 2013.

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. 


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