Mass. Housing Authority Corruption Defendant Pleads Guilty

September 15, 2006

Another member of the Asselin family has pleaded guilty in connection with a corruption probe into the Springfield Housing Authority in a deal that requires him to testify against a co-defendant, lets him keep his home and could help him avoid prison time.

Joseph T. Asselin, an insurance company president, pleaded guilty in federal court this week to bribery conspiracy and conspiracy to commit theft against the government, according to The Republican newspaper of Springfield.

He admitted to building his home using housing authority supplies and labor, as well as kickbacks from authority contractors arranged by his father, Raymond B. Asselin, who ran the taxpayer-funded agency for more than three decades.

Both charges carry a maximum prison sentence of five years, but prosecutors have recommended a sentence of just over two years and reserved the right to recommend an even shorter sentence after he testifies against co-defendant Peter Davis, a Newburyport contractor.

“Its even conceivable the sentence could drop down to a non-confinement sentence,” District Court Judge Michael A. Ponsor said.

Joseph Asselin originally agreed to sign over his Amherst home to the government as part of the deal, but the agreement was recently revised allowing him instead to hand over assets equal to the fair market value of the home.

Raymond Asselin, his wife and five children, two of their spouses, former assistant authority director Arthur G. Sotirion, and three contractors were charged in a 122-count criminal indictment alleging a decade of graft at the agency, which provides housing for the city’s poor, elderly and disabled.

Twelve of the 13 defendants have entered into a collective plea agreement and several agreed to serve prison time. Collectively, the group agreed to pay $4.4 million in restitution.

Joseph Asselin is the only defendant scheduled to testify against Davis, charged with financing approximately $66,000 in home improvements at the homes of Asselin and his younger brother, Christopher P. Asselin, a former state representative. That trial starts Monday.

Raymond and Christopher Asselin had previously pleaded guilty.

Joseph Asselin is scheduled to be sentenced on Dec. 18.

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