Boston-area lawyer indicted for marijuana-related bribery attempt

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A Boston-area attorney has been indicted for allegedly trying to bribe a municipal police chief in a “pay-to-play scheme” that could have won a local marijuana business permit for a client.

According to a news release from the U.S. attorney’s office in Massachusetts, lawyer Sean O’Donovan, from the Boston suburb of Somerville, is facing two charges of honest services fraud and one charge of bribery after reportedly trying to bribe the police chief of Medford, another suburb of the state’s largest city.

FBI investigators allege that O’Donovan in February 2021 offered Medford Police Chief Jack Buckley $25,000 in cash through a relative – ostensibly to get his favorable recommendation for a local marijuana business license, The Boston Globe reported.

But instead of accepting, Buckley turned in O’Donovan to the FBI, which tracked his movements for months before obtaining the indictment.

Now, O’Donovan faces up to 30 years in federal prison and a $500,000 fine if convicted on all charges, according to the U.S. attorney’s office.

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Corruption has become an ongoing issue in the U.S. marijuana industry, as coveted licenses are viewed as potentially worth millions, especially in limited-license areas or where permits are hard to obtain.

In another Massachusetts bribery case associated with the state’s marijuana industry, former Fall River Mayor Jasiel Correia was sentenced to six years in prison in 2021 for corruption related to cannabis licensing.