Friday, October 23, 2020

Ex-Boston City Hall official Lynch pleads guilty to federal bribery charge

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Former city official John Lynch pleaded guilty to bribery Thursday in his first federal court appearance in a City Hall bribery scandal.

Lynch, the city’s former assistant director of Real Estate at the Economic Development Industrial Corporation, appeared before Chief Judge Patti Saris in a waiver of indictment and plea hearing. The judge set sentencing for Jan. 24 in federal court. Lynch is free until then.

Lynch, 66, has admitted to taking $50,000 in cash bribes in 2018 for influencing the approval of a permit for a property that sold at a $500,000 profit.

Lynch and his lawyer, Hank Brennan, declined to comment outside the courtroom.

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The government is seeking a prison sentence in the range of 46 to 57 months, and at least $16,800 in restitution, according to the plea agreement.

Lynch is accused of influencing a Zoning Board of Appeals member he knew personally and professionally to vote in May 2017 in favor of a permit extension for a property owned by another friend of his.

Prosecutors say the property owner sold the property for a profit, and paid Lynch $50,000 across five separate cash payments between February 2018 and November 2018, after the sale closed.

The property owner is accused of paying an additional $10,000 to Lynch, which prosecutors are including in the tax return charge alleging Lynch’s total omission in the filing at $60,000.

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Neither the property owner nor the Zoning Board of Appeals member Lynch influenced were named in court filings.

Mayor Martin Walsh said he was “completely shocked” and “flabbergasted” when he heard of Lynch’s plea agreement last week and said there is no problem with corruption at City Hall.

Last month, former city officials Kenneth Brissette and Timothy Sullivan were found guilty on Hobbs Act conspiracy charges relating to an extortion scandal for a Boston Calling concert at City Hall Plaza, and have filed motions for acquittal and for a new trial.

Walsh hired law firm Sullivan & Worcester LLP to review the ZBA, and his special adviser, William “Buddy” Christopher, temporarily stepped down last week to avoid interfering with the ZBA probe.

Former federal corruption prosecutor Brian Kelly was also hired by city officials to review any further potential misconduct.

On Tuesday, City Council President Andrea Campbell called for the city to create an inspector general position to “root out corruption” in the wake of Lynch’s plea.

Lynch was released on personal recognizance by Saris.

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