Michael McLaughlin’s all-you-can-steal buffet: Part 4, time for stomach pumping?

August 22, 2013 | Boston, Chelsea, Corruption, Greater Boston Legal Services, HUD, Law, Michael McLaughlin, Public housing, US News

By:David A. Smith


[Continued from yesterday’s Part 3 and the preceding Part 1 and Part 2.]




Though I originally thought I could contain this post within manageable limits, having already written a seven-part opus on How To Steal Big (available here in Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7), I find myself drawn back in, like Michael Corleone, out of fascination with Mr. McLaughlin’s depravity. 



Evil doesn’t have to be smart: Hannah Arendt


While Hannah Arendt called it the banality of evil when referring to the evil men who ran Nazi Germany and their dull-witted and intimidated henchmen who so readily fell into a live-action Milgram Experiment, I am horrified by how easy and simple it is for a man to steal huge sums, just by being methodologically evil. 



It’s just how the system works


I’m likewise embarrassed for our affordable housing system, whose checks and oversight mechanisms inflict gratuitous and pointless burdens on those with a conscience, while proving to be weapons of silly putty when they confront the type of person they are supposed to stop.


Principal sources for this post are the How To Steal Big reference manual, the Boston Globe (July 16, 2013; blue font), Boston Herald (July 17, 2013), and Boston Globe (July 17, 2013; brown font),


Finally, through a combination of an anonymous informant who tipped off the Boston Globe, a series of Globe articles, and most recently an energetic tenants’ association and their capable crusader Jay Rose of Greater Boston Legal Services, Mr. McLaughlin is being brought to book.



To the Chelsea Housing Authority, and quick!


As we compile the dinner tab, it’s staggering.  Here is the total possible defalcation that we know about:


Michael McLaughlin’s ill-gotten gain

(A conservative estimate based on published sources)


1. Lubricious contracts with the City of Chelsea: $265,000.  That’s the total over payment compared to what CHA should have paid.

2. Sweetheart deals with outsider non-profit: $130,000.  Assuming that the money the non-profit paid Mr. McLaughlin’s son was completely wasted, and that he worked at the non-profit for two years.

3. Sweetheart salary  to Mr. McLaughlin’s personal ‘ahem’: $375,000.  Assuming Ms. Thibodeau ‘worked’ at CHA for five years, and was paid an average of $75,000 a year.  Both figures are likely to be low. 

4. Junkets with the ‘ahem’: $180,000.  HUD has questioned $710,000 in expenses; I’ve conservatively assumed only one-quarter of that went for Mr. McLaughlin’s and Ms. Thibodeau’s business trips.

5. Political contributions shaken down: $1.  No way of estimating right now.

6. Payments to HUD moles: $1.  Also no way of estimating because we haven’t unearthed the rats and the moles.

7. Fraudulent vacation claims: $80,000.  It would have been $200,000 but Chelsea was able to stop two checks, and only one was successfully cashed. 

8. Pension obligations based on fraudulent salaries: $900,000.  Mr. McLaughlin was in line for a jaw-dropping $278,000 a year.  I would say that was for doing nothing, but the evidence is overwhelming that nothing would have been better for Chelsea Housing Authority than what Mr. McLaughlin actually did on the job.

9. Possible ill-gotten gains: $550,000.  Based on the tenants’ analysis of Mr. McLaughlin’s fraudulent salary overpayments from 2007 to 2010.



Our whole team is working on this


Of these sums, the pension obligation (Item 8) is unpaid (thankfully) and under dispute, but the remaining $1,580,002 has already been paid.  Quite a haul for glorious years of silent rapine.  Hence Jay Rose’s quote to me (personal communication) is entirely apt:


“This man almost single-handedly ruined the Chelsea Housing Authority.  He made over 900 households live in neglected squalor while he helped himself to CHA’s money for himself, his ‘ahem’ assistant, his cronies and goodness knows who else.”   




But there’s good news, friends.






Will this get me off?






D. The crocodile tears




Rule 29: When cornered dead to rights, feign contrition. If caught in a small theft, act the prodigal son, the wayward who finds integrity and maturity. Suckers will buy it every time.




Mr. McLaughlin is very sorry.




Before being sentenced, McLaughlin told the judge that he “truly regretted’’ filing false reports, actions he blamed on “my stubbornness and ego.’’




That’s what Mr. McLaughlin said, but of course, in reality he blamed his actions on “thinking I could get away with it.”  Worse, for a decade he did get away with it.




“That was my fault for that, and I truly regret it,’’ McLaughlin said in US District Court in Boston. “It was more than a misjudgment – ’




More than a misjudgment, you toad? 






You have a fertile imagination, Mr. McLaughlin




Mr. McLaughlin has mastered another dark art – knowing that journalists will report any quote, no matter how entirely ridiculous it sounds, and you will be out there with the usual non0judgmental blather of the postcultural world where evil does not exist.




“– and I am sorry for my family, friends and colleagues.’’




Family, friends, and colleagues?  These are the people he’s sorry for?




How about the residents, the 900 households whose money he stole for years, and whom his theft consigned to live in decrepit housing?  Chelsea Record (August 1, 2013):




For the past 16 years, Jean Fulco has lived in Chelsea Housing Authority (CHA) properties – virtually every one of them, she said – and put up with roaches, no heat, no hot water and units falling apart on top of her.




How about them?






Jean Fulco and her daughter, Angelina, 8, pose for a picture in front of their apartment on Central Avenue this week. Fulco was one of two CHA residents that stood up in Federal Court last month to detail the conditions within the units during McLaughlin’s tenure.




Mr. McLaughlin, you have hundreds of people to do penance for, not your cronies and beneficiaries and co-conspirators.




He credited himself with giving new life to a troubled housing authority.




Mr. McLaughlin must have been delusional – and I mean that.  He had repeated the lies for so many years, and seen them swallowed so credulously, including by people like Scott Harshbarger who should have known better, that he actually forgot to disbelieve them.




McLaughlin’s lawyer asked that his client be allowed to serve his time in the Devens federal prison complex.




Remember, Mr. Hoopes, every dollar you are paid by this villain was stolen from residents whom Mr. McLaughlin made live with roaches in their beds, rats in their kitchens, no heart in their apartments, and fear of eviction if they spoke up.  As How To Steal Big explained it:




Rule 7: Use economic human shields. Poor people, ‘those people,’ deserve to be exploited, and if somebody’s going to do it, why not you?




Mr. Hoopes, I certainly hope that Mr. McLaughlin stiffs you as he has stiffed everyone else he ever could.






Or maybe you made him pay you cash yup front




The tenants not only want to be heard about how they lived in squalor while McLaughlin overpaid himself more than $500,000 over a four-year period, they want their money back.




This is the same Mr. Hoopes who had no problems spouting the oldest mafia-don line in the book: personal health as a plea for compassion:




McLaughlin’s lawyer had argued that he should not go to prison, saying he had no criminal record and was “irreplaceable” in the care of his bedridden wife, who has Alzheimer’s-like symptoms and cannot be left alone.




The bedridden wife he routinely left for three-week jaunts to Florida with his ahem.




In recommending prison time, however, Ortiz’s office had pointed out that McLaughlin traveled extensively, often with his close friend Linda Thibodeau, during his tenure as Chelsea housing director, leaving his wife in Massachusetts.




Once caught, they’re either dying themselves or they’re saints to the dying. This is the man who took myriad trips with his ahem. 








George Spiggott: Everything I’ve ever told you has been a lie. Including that.

Stanley Moon: Including what?

George Spiggott: That everything I’ve ever told has been a lie. That’s not true.

Stanley Moon: I don’t know what to believe.

George Spiggott: Not me, Stanley, believe me.



I thought up the seven deadly sins in an afternoon


I could reconcile myself to his despicable success if Mr. McLaughlin had been as smart as the devil, but he is not.  He was a scoundrel, a thief, now a convicted felon (and many times over an uncaught felon) … but he’s not smart, just a braggart.


In seeking restitution, Jay Rose of Greater Boston Legal Services notes in his motion that McLaughlin was quoted in Boston Globe story joking to the state auditing office, “all my neighbors are rich and I have to keep up with them.”


As further amplified:


“The funds which McLaughlin lied about in order to continue to receive them were intended to benefit CHA [Chelsea Housing Authority] for the low-income residents it serves,” the motion stated.


During the years McLaughlin was boosting his salary, maintenance and repairs were “foregone due to financial constraints,” it stated.


Mr. McLaughlin wasn’t even as deliberate or capable as Jacob Marley:



It is a ponderous chain


“I wear the chain I forged in life,” replied the Ghost. “I made it link by link, and yard by yard; I girded it on of my own free will, and of my own free will I wore it.  Is its pattern strange to you?”


“Or would you know,” pursued the Ghost, “the weight and length of the strong coil you bear yourself?  It was full as heavy and as long as this, seven Christmas Eves ago.  You have laboured on it, since. It is a ponderous chain!”


For what he did to the poor people of Chelsea, and to the Chelsea Housing Authority, Mr. McLaughlin deserves to be stripped of every cent to his name, and serve every day of his sentence in prison.  As Jay Rose put it:


“We want him jailed for the maximum possible term and we want to strip him of every ill-gotten dollar, or all the money he has in the world, whichever is less.”


“Even if we do that, it won’t compensate for the damage he has done … but every dollar we recover is another dollar to give back to the Chelsea Housing Authority for urgently needed repairs, so CHA can get back what it deserves, and what he and his henchmen stole from them.”


Upon his release, Mr. McLaughlin should be ankle-braceleted and ordered to live in Chelsea public housing for the rest of his miserable life


I hope Mr. McLaughlin is a devout Catholic so that until his dying day he will fear burning in hell.