With casino gambling finally coming to the Boston area, gamblers are hoping to strike it rich playing legalized games of chance. Casino owners are also seeing dollar signs, but concern over where those dollars end up has caught the attention of federal law enforcement. Out of concern for the gaming industry's potential for fraud and government corruption, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is introducing a new anti-corruption program.
The Boston Division of the FBI has announced their new program under the campaign headline, "Stop Corruption Now." The program includes a phoneline, online tip portal, and billboard ads. The FBI will also advertise the campaign on Facebook. The FBI has indicated public corruption is a top priority for the agency. The public campaign is important to cracking down on corruption because bribes are often secretive, with corruption being very difficult to detect.
According to Special Agent Vincent Lisi, "concerned citizens are the FBI's biggest asset when it comes to exposing people who are abusing the public's trust and misusing taxpayer money toline their own pockets." Tips from the public can be helpful in alerting the FBI to possible public corruption, and providing information for a criminal conviction. The agency is asking the public at large to be on watch for public officials who use their office for private gain. The FBI says they will keep reporting details private.
Back in October, we reported on three men charged with fraud for hiding the financial interests of a known mob associate from the Massachusetts Gaming Commission. Now the FBI has indicated that bringing casinos to the area can increase public corruption and feed organized crime. Special Agent Lisi stressed that the tip line is not in direct response to the casino industry, though he notes, "when you look at legalized gambling, you have a heavy amount of regulation, along with a lucrative business." Lisi continued, "Those two factors combined make for pretty fertile grounds for corruption of public officials."
The FBI noted a rise in public corruption cases handled by the Boston Office over the past few years. The locally-based office handles cases across Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire and Rhode Island. Their recently prosecuted cases include a Rhode Island man's kickback scheme which bilked the U.S. Navy out of $18 million, and the probation racketeering chargesinvolving John J. O'Brien. The former Providence mayor Vincent Cianci, and former town selectwoman of Chelsea, Main have recently been convicted in relation to corruption charges. The FBI is hopeful that publicizing these corruption cases will act as a deterrent to others.
Of course, just because someone is alleged to have committed corruption does not necessarily mean they are guilty. Activity that may appear to be corruption to some, may not be. The FBI has even provided some broad guidelines to determine whether corruption has taken place. The lack of clarity regarding business deals and what might be considered unlawful quid pro quo makes it a good idea to consult a qualified and experienced criminal defense attorney at the first sign of a governmental investigation.