State Sen. Dianne Wilkerson was arrested by the FBI on Oct. 28 on federal corruption charges. She is accused of accepting more than $20,000 in cash bribes in exchange for delivering legislation helpful to a nightclub owner and would-be developers, according to the US Attorney’s Office.
Undercover FBI agents and a cooperating witness allegedly caught Wilkerson on audio and video recordings accepting cash bribes eight separate times in the past 18 months. One still image released by the US Attorney’s Office allegedly shows Wilkerson at a restaurant stuffing a $1,000 bribe under her shirt and into her bra.
The charges include an accusation that Wilkerson asked an undercover FBI agent for $10,000 to fund her current write-in election campaign. She allegedly was paid the $10,000 in cash on Oct. 2.
If convicted, Wilkerson faces up to 40 years in prison and $500,000 in fines on the charges of “attempted extortion under color of official right and theft of honest services as a State Senator.”
Wilkerson was released on $50,000 bond. She is scheduled to return to federal court on Nov. 17 for a hearing where she will file a plea, according to US Attorney’s Office spokesperson Christina DiIorio-Sterling.
Wilkerson did not immediately return a Gazette phone call. Her attorney, Max Stern, declined to comment for this article. A Gazette call to Wilkerson’s campaign headquarters was also unreturned.
“Voters and taxpayers expect that elected officials will do what is right for their constituents—not what is financially best for themselves,” said US Attorney Michael Sullivan in a press statement, describing Wilkerson’s alleged bribe-taking as “unconscionable.”
Wilkerson, who has held the 2nd Suffolk District seat since 1992, was already plagued by a long history of legal problems. She lost the Sept. 16 Democratic primary election to Jamaica Plain resident Sonia Chang-Díaz, who ran on a slogan of “ethics and accountability.” Wilkerson has been running as a write-in candidate for the Nov. 4 election.
Earlier this year, Wilkerson paid a $10,000 fine to settle campaign finance law violations—her second $10,000 campaign finance fine in 10 years. In 1997, she was convicted of willful failure to file federal income taxes for four years.
The federal corruption charges are detailed in an FBI affidavit. They accuse Wilkerson of filing special legislation to help secure a liquor license for a Roxbury nightclub and to hand over state land in Roxbury to a development team without public bidding.
To gain political leverage for those efforts, Wilkerson allegedly stalled other pieces of legislation, including the 2007 one-time bill that eliminated the city preliminary election.
In exchange for the work, Wilkerson was paid bribes, none of them less than $500, according to the FBI affidavit.
After her loss in the primary election, Wilkerson allegedly contacted one of the undercover FBI agents and requested $10,000 to help her write-in campaign effort. The agent allegedly gave her the $10,000 in cash at a restaurant on Oct. 2.
On Aug. 14, the same day she visited the Gazette office for an interview, Wilkerson allegedly met with undercover FBI agents outside her district office and told them she “appreciated” $5,000 in bribes she allegedly had received recently.
“I pushed this envelope farther than it’s ever been pushed before,” Wilkerson allegedly told one undercover FBI agent about her legislative efforts to get the nightclub a liquor license.
The FBI affidavit alleges that Wilkerson used one $1,000 pay-off to pay for a trip to the Foxwoods casino in Connecticut the same day the money was handed over.
The FBI affidavit also adds a new detail to another of Wilkerson’s recent legal troubles. Wilkerson is facing the possible loss of her license over allegations that she committed perjury in recent hearings about a 1994 homicide case. One of Wilkerson’s nephews was convicted of manslaughter in that case.
Wilkerson alleges that Boston Police detectives turned off an interrogation-room tape recorder while a witness made statements indicating that the nephew is innocent. The detectives claim that is not true and that Wilkerson was not even present in the room at the time.
The FBI affidavit says that FBI forensic experts analyzed the interrogation room tape recording last year and found that the recorder was not turned off during the interview. The affidavit says that finding “directly contradicts Wilkerson’s sworn testimony.” But Wilkerson has not been charged with any crime in that case.
To download full text of the FBI complaint against Wilkerson, click here
For more coverage of Wilkerson’s case and the Nov. 4 election, see the Nov. 7 Gazette.