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Grand jury probe confirmed

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Middlesex Sheriff James DiPaola was on the hot seat last November, answering questions from FOX Undercover about allegations that he pocketed cash from employees to promote them.

“I'm looking you right in the eye and telling you I have never done that and the allegations of me doing that are wrong,” DiPaola told FOX Undercover reporter Mike Beaudet.

Despite his denials, Attorney General Martha Coakley began a corruption investigation that is now in a grand jury’s hands, FOX Undercover has confirmed through sources and one person who acknowledged appearing before the grand jury.

The grand jury’s deliberations are secret, but investigators have asked current and former employees about allegations in last year’s FOX Undercover report. Here’s a look back at what was reported.

In that story, a former high-ranking employee told FOX Undercover, and also said under oath in a deposition, that he gave cash to DiPaola which was never recorded as campaign donations.

“Did you give cash donations?” Beaudet asked the man, who spoke on the condition his identity not be revealed.

“Every time,” the man replied.

“How much money?” Beaudet asked.

“Close to $5,000 cash,” he replied.

“Why did you give all that money?” Beaudet asked.

“To make sure that I was going to stay in the position I was in, to remain in good graces with the sheriff,” he replied.

And after our story aired, we received a flood of tips, many from current and former employees, who told the same story. To get ahead you had to give, often at functions they call cash parties.

“I've been to four-five parties. I've seen the money counted, $2,100 in one case, $2,300 in another, and handed to the sheriff and he'd put it in his top left hand pocket,” one said.

We also asked DiPaola about watching one of his fundraisers and identifying employees of his who attended, but there was no record of them donating to his political campaign.

“I would have no knowledge of whether someone actually gave money or just showed up, enjoyed themselves and left,” DiPaola said.

There was more bad news for DiPaola.

The state Office of Campaign and Political Finance was already investigating his office. And The Boston Globe revealed that DiPaola was maneuvering to collect a full pension and salary at the same time.

DiPaola announced he was resigning last November, but later that month he shot and killed himself in a Maine hotel room.

That hasn't stopped the corruption investigation, which FOX Undercover has learned has taken a new twist. State police investigators late last month raided the office of the Medford Housing Authority, whose executive director is married to the late sheriff's sister. A message left for the housing authority’s director, Robert Covelle, was not returned.

All this comes as a state grand jury is hearing evidence in the case, raising the possibility that criminal charges could be coming soon.

FOX Undercover spoke with one grand jury witness, the sheriff's budget director, Gary Christenson, who says was called to authenticate records the grand jury was reviewing. Christenson declined to elaborate at the direction of investigators. Christenson is on leave from the department as he runs for mayor in Malden.

Middlesex Sheriff Peter Koutoujian’s chief of staff, Kathleen Glunz Skarin, released a statement: "Sheriff Koutoujian is cooperating fully with an investigation being conducted by the Attorney General’s Office. The Middlesex Sheriff’s Office has worked closely with state investigators and out of respect for their work, we defer all questions to Attorney General Coakley’s office.”

 

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