BOSTON (AP) — A former Massachusetts state senator and Republican candidate for Congress pleaded not guilty Thursday to charges including allegedly stealing a gun from an elderly constituent and misleading investigators about what happened.
Dean Tran, 46, of Fitchburg, stated in court that he was “absolutely not guilty” to each charge.
Investigators said Tran used his position as a public official to intimidate the woman into parting with her late husband’s firearms, making her sign a pre-prepared contract and giving her $1,500 in cash for at least eight guns while visiting her in June 2019.
When asked to return them the next day, Tran complied. But a day after he gave the guns back, he returned to the woman’s home, forced his way in and demanded a key to the gun safe, according to investigators.
He then stole a Colt .45 while the constituent hid in her bedroom, investigators said. That gun was also later returned to the woman.
Tran issued a statement earlier this month calling the allegations “untrue and categorically false.”
Investigators say Tran allegedly gave conflicting stories and reasons for taking the guns when interviewed by police, including denying any type of firearm sale, later producing a sales contract for the weapons, and disparaging the constituent’s mental capacity before demanding a written apology from her.
Investigators also allege Tran made false statements on his May 2019 license-to-carry renewal application.
Tran is challenging two-term Democratic U.S. Rep. Lori Trahan for the congressional seat representing the state’s 3rd Congressional District.
On Wednesday, Tran filed a federal lawsuit against Attorney General Maura Healey, alleging that the timing of the charges was politically motivated, given Healey’s support for Trahan, a fellow Democrat and the fact that the allegations date to 2019.
Healey is running for governor.
“Now, because I am challenging a Democratic seat in Congress, these allegations are coming forward,” Tran posted on Facebook Wednesday. “I want to state emphatically, that I did not engage in any wrongdoing and that these charges are being maliciously utilized to benefit my political opponent.”
A spokesperson for Healey declined to comment on the lawsuit.
Tran was indicted July 1 by a Worcester grand jury on the charges including larceny of a firearm, filing an application for a license to carry containing false information, obtaining a signature by false pretenses with intent to defraud, and misleading a police investigation.
The Massachusetts Senate barred Tran in 2020 from interacting with his staff except through official emails in the wake of an ethics investigation that found he had his staff conduct campaign work during regular Senate business hours.