The first signs of the investigation came several weeks ago. The FBI showed up at a local social club in Stoughton and surprised members by pulling two flat-screened televisions from the wall, checking the serial numbers on the back, and then taking them away. Now, it turns out that the Boston federal investigators may be granting certain local law enforcement officials the chance to get to know some criminal defense attorneys in a professional setting.
According to today’s Boston Globe, the afore-mentioned televisions, allegedly stolen, were seized as part of an ongoing federal grand jury investigation into allegations of theft and corruption involving Stoughton police officers.
“The feds aren’t just looking at receiving stolen goods,” said an anonymous source allegedly familiar with the investigation.
Meanwhile, the spokesman for the FBI’s Boston office will only say, “We can neither confirm nor deny whether there is or is not an active investigation into anything in Stoughton.” A spokeswoman for the US attorney’s office also declined to comment.
However, the anonymous people who the Globe says are familiar with the investigation said a longtime informant for a former Stoughton police detective began cooperating with authorities after the informant was arrested recently on a number of charges.
The informant, who has a lengthy record that includes arrests on charges involving drugs, burglary, forgery, assault and battery, and motor vehicle violations, has accused Stoughton police officers of wrongdoing, the sources said.
And what says the police chief of the Stoughton Police Department?
Well, actually, the Department has been having its own legal problems in recent years. For example, it has been without a permanent police chief since March 2005, when Chief Manuel J. Cachopa was placed on administrative leave following his indictment on charges of being an accessory to attempted extortion. Last January he was convicted of the charge, which stemmed from allegations that he tried to cover up and hinder an investigation into allegations that a Sergeant abused his authority in 2002 while attempting to collect a debt from a local businessman.
There are a couple of instructive lessons we can take from today’s postings about federal criminal investigations.
First of all, you do not necessarily know when they are going to begin. Sadly, there could be an investigation going on right now, as you read this, with you having absolutely no idea that you are in the criminal justice spotlight.
“Wait a minute, Sam”, you exclaim. “That’s not true. I have not done anything wrong.”
Maybe you haven’t. Maybe someone just thinks that you did. Maybe you made a stupid mistake at work and it could be misinterpreted to be a criminal act. Perhaps you even have an enemy out there who would like to see you in trouble.
Or, maybe you are simply convenient.
Which brings us to our second point.
Often, criminal investigations, both state and federal, begin on the word of someone with a desperate need to have something to trade with law enforcement. In other words, someone like the informant mentioned above is in trouble. In order to get any semblance of a “break”, the informant comes up with information which the prosecutors may be interested in. He suddenly becomes a government witness and receives the perks that go with it.
Now, I will assume that you would agree that someone with a history of felonies such as charges involving drugs, violence and fraud might be willing to bend the truth alittle if it means more lenient treatment. But, perhaps you are saying, “What he tells them must be the truth! If they look into it and find he lied, it won’t do him any good.”
Maybe. But what is “truth”?
In most criminal investigations, at least in my experience, the “truth” is what law enforcement believes it is. The “truth” is the outline of the puzzle and it is the investigators who decide what pieces fit in and where they fit in.
Suffice it to say that not everybody’s “truth” is the same and leave it at that.
So, the bottom line here is that you cannot feel complacent. If you have any clue that there may be a criminal investigation going on with your name on it, you probably want to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney to advise and, if necessary, defend you.
Should you find yourself or someone you care about to possibly be facing such an investigation and wish to discuss the matter with me, please feel free to call me at (617) 206-1942.
For the full article upon which today’s blog is based, go to http://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/articles/2009/09/24/fbi_case_focuses_on_tvs_police/