SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) - Lee Police Chief Joseph Buffis has been indicted by a federal grand jury on charges that he forced two people facing charges in a prostitution case to make a donation to a holiday toy fund, and then pocketed the money.
The grand jury in Springfield returned an indictment against Buffis on Thursday for one count of extortion and three counts of money laundering.
According to a news release sent to 22News by the office of U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz, the 58 year-old Pittsfield resident is accused of extorting $4,000 as a "donation" from two people who were facing "prostitution-related charges."
According to the indictment, the two, identified only as " Citizen 1 and Citizen 2," were the owners of an inn, which had been the subject of an undercover prostitution investigation by state police. The indictment states that a Lee police officer had sought criminal complaints against Citizens 1 and 2, but Buffis had met with the two prior to their court hearing, during which time the alleged extortion happened.
Prosecutors allege that Buffis had the two make donations to the Edward J. Laliberte Toy Fund (a fund that the chief himself controlled) as a "voluntary donation in lieu of criminal fines or civil forfeiture action."
After receiving a check, Buffis allegedly deposited the money into the fund's bank account, and shortly thereafter withdrew from it $3,990, which he deposited into an account that he shares with his wife. According to the indictment, Buffis and his wife used the money at various places, including a liquor store and a hardware store.
Buffis is also alleged to have lied to investigators.
22News reported back in November that FBI Special Agents had conducted a search of the police department headquarters , though federal officials refused to disclose further details at the time.
Ultimately, no charges were filed against the owners of the inn.
The FBI is now looking for anyone who donated to the Edward J. Laliberte Toy Fund, or who applied for assistance from the fund, to contact their Springfield Office at (413) 732-0159. You are also asked to call that number if you have any information on this case.