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Somerville lawyer arrested, accused of trying to bribe Medford police chief, authorities say

A Somerville lawyer was arrested Friday for participating in a scheme to bribe the Medford police chief in an effort to gain approval for a marijuana dispensary, according to U.S. Attorney Rachael S. Rollins’ office.

Sean O’Donovan, 54, was charged with two counts of honest services wire fraud and one count of bribery relating to programs receiving federal funds. He was scheduled to appear in federal court in Boston on Friday afternoon, Rollins’ office said in a statement.

The indictment says that in 2018, a marijuana company hired O’Donovan as a consultant to help it secure a host community agreement with the city of Medford. In February 2021, O’Donovan reportedly offered to pay a close relative of the Medford police chief $25,000 to talk about the company’s request for the foster community agreement.

The police chief was one of five local officials serving on Medford’s Cannabis Advisory Board, and when he learned of the alleged bribe, he “immediately alerted federal authorities,” the report says. communicated.

“During the investigation, O’Donovan, believing he had reached an agreement with Individual 1 and the Chief, offered to pay Individual 1 approximately $25,000 in exchange for the Chief’s favorable action on the customer request,” the statement read. “According to the indictment, O’Donovan took steps to conceal the true purpose of the intended bribe.”

According to the indictment, O’Donovan offered to pay the bribe money in cash and pretend it was a loan, saying, “If I give you ‘money, there will be no trace’, and rejected the idea of ​​entering into a contract with the individual. , saying he didn’t “think it was a good paper trail”.

O’Donovan’s attorney, Martin G. Weinberg, said O’Donovan was arrested on Cape Cod. O’Donovan pleaded not guilty to the charges and was released on bail, he said.

“These allegations test the outer limits of federal criminal law,” Weinberg said in a phone interview.

Weinberg said in this instance O’Donovan “did not say a word” to an official and never offered “a dollar” to an official.

When the case comes to trial, Weinberg said, “we will argue that these allegations fall outside the parameters of federal criminal law.”

Joseph R. Bonavolonta, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Boston Division, said O’Donovan was arrested by the FBI on Friday “for allegedly participating in a pay-to-play scheme in which he attempted to capitalize on his insider access….for one’s own financial benefit.

“It is vitally important that agreements with the host community are awarded through a fair and transparent process, and not through backdoor deals funded by bribes to those in positions of power,” Bonavolonta said in a statement. “We believe that what we have uncovered in this case is not just an affront to all hard-working, rule-abiding companies, but a betrayal of Mr. O’Donovan’s client and the trust of the community. .”

Rollins praised the Medford police chief for reporting the alleged bribery scheme to federal authorities.

“This case concerns an attempt to bribe officials. I commend the Medford Police Chief for immediately reporting this unlawful behavior to the FBI,” Rollins said in the statement. “We must ensure that greed and unethical behavior do not undermine the proper functioning of municipal governments in our Commonwealth. This lawsuit does just that.

Emily Sweeney can be contacted at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @emilysweeney and on Instagram @emilysweeney22.