Massachusetts Lawmaker Used Campaign Funds to Support Gambling Habit, Officials Say
A longtime Massachusetts state lawmaker was arrested Tuesday on more than two dozen fraud and tax evasion charges after the authorities accused him of stealing thousands of dollars in campaign funds to support his gambling habit and to pay for his lavish lifestyle.
The lawmaker, Representative David M. Nangle, 59, a Democrat from Lowell who serves on the House Ethics Committee, was also accused of falsifying bank loan applications to obtain nearly $400,000, and of claiming fraudulent deductions on his tax returns, according to a 28-count indictment.
During a news conference in Boston on Tuesday, federal authorities said that Mr. Nangle had been charged with wire fraud, bank fraud, making false statements to a bank and filing false tax returns after a public corruption investigation by the F.B.I. that lasted more than two years.
The authorities said that the fraud scheme went back to at least 2014, with Mr. Nangle going to extraordinary lengths to conceal his gambling activities and his deep financial debt.
“Simply put, Representative Nangle used the power of his position on Beacon Hill to fund a lifestyle out of his reach, unwittingly financed by those who put him there while also cheating the taxpayers,” Joseph R. Bonavolonta, the F.B.I. special agent in charge of the bureau’s Boston field office, said at the news conference.
Mr. Nangle pleaded not guilty to all of the charges in federal court in Boston on Tuesday after being taken into custody at his home. He was released on $25,000 bond.
“Dave Nangle is a good man who has proudly represented his district as a state representative,” William Connolly, a lawyer for Mr. Nangle, said in an interview Tuesday. “The charges in this case are nothing more than allegations. We will fight the charges in court.”
Mr. Nangle has been a House member since 1999 and represents parts of Lowell and Chelmsford, according to his legislative website.
Prosecutors said that as a former Ethics Committee chairman whose campaign had been audited several times, Mr. Nangle knew full well that his actions were wrong. They said he had filed false campaign finance reports to try to cover his tracks.
“Corruption can be easy and tempting for state-level elected officials, but here, Representative Nangle went beyond that,” Andrew E. Lelling, the U.S. attorney for Massachusetts, said at the news conference. “This was not a momentary lapse of judgment or a technical foul. This was a systemic pattern of theft and fraud going back to at least 2014.”
Law enforcement officials said Mr. Nangle had racked up gambling debts at casinos throughout New England, and had used some of the stolen campaign funds to pay for rental cars to travel to the casinos.
He also spent political contributions on personal expenses, such as flowers for his girlfriend, gas, hotel rooms and meal charges, according to the indictment. In some cases, he submitted reimbursement claims to the state for those expenses, the authorities said.
Mr. Nangle spent nearly $6,000 on membership dues and other fees at a golf club in Lowell, according to the indictment, which said that he listed those expenditures as campaign-related on state filings. He spent another $8,000 on gift cards for himself, the indictment said.
Robert A. DeLeo, the Democratic speaker of the Massachusetts House, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Tuesday night, but said in a statement to The Boston Globe that he had no inkling of Mr. Nangle’s gambling problem.
“The allegations against Representative Nangle are serious and troubling and, if true, represent a significant betrayal of the public trust,” Mr. DeLeo said. “I was shocked and disappointed to learn of his indictment this morning.”
The authorities said Mr. Nangle had paid someone to collect a $1,221 jackpot that he won on a slot machine at a Connecticut casino to avoid it being reported as income to the I.R.S.
Mr. Nangle was accused of filing false tax returns for the calendar years of 2014 to 2018, and in two instances claimed deductions related to a bogus consulting business, the authorities said.
Among the income that investigators said Mr. Nangle tried to hide was $15,000 worth of free home improvement work by a contractor from Tyngsborough, Mass. The contractor, which officials would not name, was awarded lucrative bids for construction projects for which Mr. Nangle secured state funding, the authorities said.
The charges of bank fraud and filing false tax returns each carry a penalty of up to 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine, officials said.
“Today’s arrest should be a warning to others that corruption in any form, at any level of government, will not be tolerated,” Mr. Bonavolonta said.
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