Winn exec charged with funneling funds to pols

September 10, 2010
By

David Taber

A top executive with Winn Management, a major property manager in Jamaica Plain, has allegedly for years been funneling illegal campaign contributions through contractors hired by the company.

According to a charging document filed Aug. 31 by the United States Attorney’s Office, Martin Raffol, a senior vice president with Winn Management, is accused of illegally concealing the identity of election campaign donors and witness tampering.

The charging document alleges that, since at least 2003, Raffol had been directing contractors working with Winn Management to contribute to the campaign committees of local, state and federal office-seekers, and reimbursing them based on “inflated invoices for work not actually performed.”

Charging documents are usually labeled as “complaints” or, if they result from a grand jury investigation, “indictments.” This document was labeled an “information,” indicating that a plea deal with Raffol might be in the works.

Raffol “contributed $12,000 in illegal campaign contributions to federal candidates that were not accurately reported…[and]…caused no less than $32,000 in illegal campaign contributions to state and local elected officials,” according to the charging document.

The charging document from the US Attorney’s Office does not include the names of the contractors. That has left local non-profit developer Urban Edge—which has a portfolio of over 1,000 units of affordable housing in Jamaica Plain and surrounding neighborhoods, all managed by Winn—unsure about whether it has been paying inflated costs, Urban Edge president Mossik Hacobian told the Gazette last week.

It has also left four members of the Commonwealth’s federal congressional delegation—including Michael Capuano and Stephen Lynch, who represent parts of JP—unsure about what contributions they might need to return.

Gazette calls to Lynch and Capuano’s campaigns were not returned by press time. Spokespeople for the other two Congressmen, Barney Frank and William Delahunt—who is not seeking reelection this year—said they had not known the contributions were illegal, and are not able to return them at this point because the US Attorney’s Office has not released the names of the nominal donors.

Representatives of WinnCompanies, Winn Management’s parent company, did not respond to Gazette requests for comment by press time.

Hacobian told the Gazette, “We understand Winn is the process of doing an intensive internal search.” to determine which of its property owners were over-billed for services provided at housing developments via Winn Management. “Winn has indicated it will immediately reimburse properties for anything they might have been over-billed for,” Hacobian said.

While it only explicitly names incumbent congressional office-seekers, the charging document also indicates that US senators from Massachusetts received illegal contributions, but does not identify them.

It also alleges that “candidates for Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Secretary of State, state Senator, state Representative, District Attorney, Mayor of Boston and Boston City Council” received illegal contributions. Those allegations would be investigated by the state Office of Campaign and Political Finance and the state Attorney General’s Office. Spokespersons from both of those offices told the Gazette their policy is not to confirm or comment on ongoing investigations.

According to the charging document, in Oct. 2008, the investigation of Winn Companies—known in the documents as “Company B”—had commenced as part of an investigation of “a Massachusetts state Senator…to determine [among other things] whether Company B or any of its executives had violated federal criminal statutes in connection with various things of value, including campaign contributions, given to the Massachusetts State Senator by Company B and its executives.”

Then-state Sen. Dianne Wilkerson—who had close ties to Winn Companies and was an ardent supporter of its since-abandoned massive, mixed-use Columbus Center development in the Back Bay—was arrested by the FBI in Oct. 2008 on charges related to accepting over $23,000 in bribes. She has pled guilty to those charges and is awaiting sentencing. A similar case involving City Councilor Chuck Turner is scheduled to go to trial this fall.

The federal investigation into Winn Companies is ongoing, US Attorney’s Office spokesperson Christina DiLorio-Sterling told the Gazette.