Former Somerville Attorney Convicted For Dispensary Bribery Scheme

O’Donovan “sought to have the [police] Chief favorably rank his client’s application and … pressured the mayor to select the client to open a retail marijuana store in Medford.”

The arrest and federal prosecution of former Somerville attorney Sean O’Donovan hasn’t received as much attention as the sinking of former Fall River Mayor Jasiel Correia for the latter’s cannabis-related criminal ordeal. That’s probably because the public officials in the former’s case proved to be the good guys; nevertheless, there were still plenty of fireworks for anybody watching.

On Friday, a federal jury in Boston convicted O’Donovan of “engaging in a scheme to bribe the Chief of Police in Medford, Mass. to obtain approval for a client to sell recreational marijuana.” The jury convicted him of “two counts of honest services wire fraud and one count of bribery concerning programs receiving federal funds.”

“Sean O’Donovan’s greed led him to engage in this old school bribery scheme to line his own pocket,” Acting US Attorney Joshua S. Levy said in a statement. “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.”

Jodi Cohen, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Boston Division, added, “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. … 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.”

More from the US Attorney’s Office District of Massachusetts below:

According to court documents and evidence presented at trial, O’Donovan paid a bribe to influence the Medford Police Chief in connection with O’Donovan’s client’s recreational marijuana business. In February 2021, O’Donovan approached Individual 1, a relative of the Chief, and offered to pay Individual 1 $25,000 to speak with the Chief about his client’s anticipated application to sell recreational marijuana in Medford. At the time, the Chief had recently been appointed to serve on a committee to rank such applications on behalf of Medford’s mayor, who would ultimately select three applicants to open retail marijuana stores in Medford. After Individual 1 informed the Chief of O’Donovan’s corrupt offer, the Chief immediately alerted federal authorities. 

Over the course of the investigation, O’Donovan, believing he had an agreement with Individual 1 and the Chief, offered to pay Individual 1 approximately $25,000 in exchange for the Chief’s favorable action on his client’s application. Specifically, O’Donovan sought to have the Chief favorably rank his client’s application and, separately, advised and pressured the mayor to select the client to open a retail marijuana store in Medford. O’Donovan was slated to receive a stream of income of at least $100,000 annually from his client’s marijuana business if its Medford application were successful. O’Donovan never informed his client of the bribery scheme with Individual 1.

O’Donovan faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison on each honest services wire fraud count and a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison on the federal funds bribery count. Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based on the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors. 

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