BOSTON (WWLP) – According to a federal jury in Boston, a former attorney pleaded guilty Friday to bribing the Chief of Police of Medford, Massachusetts, in order to obtain approval for a client to sell recreational marijuana.

In a news release sent to 22News, from the Department of Justice, a jury convicted Sean O’Donovan, 56, of Somerville, Mass., of two counts of honest services wire fraud and one count of bribery concerning federally funded programs.

“Sean O’Donovan’s greed led him to engage in this old school bribery scheme to line his own pocket,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Joshua S. Levy. “His plot failed because of the unquestioned integrity of  Medford Police Chief Jack Buckley and his brother. Upholding the rule of law and holding lawyers who break the law accountable is an essential priority of this office.”

“Today’s verdict proves that Sean O’Donovan went from practicing law to breaking it by engaging in a pay-to-play scheme in which he tried to capitalize on his insider access, in attempting to bribe the Medford Police Chief for his own financial gain. His actions were not only an affront to all the hard-working businesses that play by the rules, but a betrayal of his client’s and the community’s trust,” said Jodi Cohen, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Boston Division. “Rooting out public corruption is a top priority for the FBI, and we are extremely grateful to the Medford Police Chief and his relative who did not hesitate to do what was right by working with us to thwart this nefarious scheme.”

According to court documents and evidence at trial, O’Donovan paid a bribe to influence the Medford Police Chief about his client’s recreational marijuana business. O’Donovan approached Individual 1, a relative of the Chief, and offered $25,000 to speak with the Chief about his client’s anticipated application to sell recreational marijuana. 

He had just been appointed to serve on a committee ranking applications on behalf of Medford’s mayor, who would select three applicants to open retail marijuana stores. Individual 1 told the Chief about O’Donovan’s corrupt offer, so the Chief alerted federal authorities.

Over the course of the investigation, O’Donovan offered Individual 1 approximately $25,000 in exchange for the Chief’s favorable action on his client’s application. Specifically, O’Donovan tried to get the Chief to favorably rank his client’s application, as well as pressure the mayor to select his client to open a retail marijuana store in Medford. If his client’s Medford application was approved, O’Donovan would get at least $100,000 a year from his marijuana business. O’Donovan didn’t tell his client about the bribery scheme with Individual 1.

In each honest services wire fraud count, O’Donovan faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, and in the federal funds bribery count, he faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison. Federal district court judges impose sentences based on the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines.

O’Donovan is scheduled to be sentenced on February 7, 2024.

Local News

Kayleigh Thomas is a digital reporter who has been a part of the 22News team since 2022. Follow Kayleigh on X @kayleighcthomas and view her bio to see more of her work.