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Wilkerson faces more bribery allegations

Federal grand jury expands indictment

A federal grand jury handed up a new indictment yesterday that added 23 charges against former state senator Dianne Wilkerson. A federal grand jury handed up a new indictment yesterday that added 23 charges against former state senator Dianne Wilkerson.
By Jonathan Saltzman
Globe Staff / April 8, 2009
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Former state senator Dianne Wilkerson began taking bribes in exchange for political favors in 2002, five years earlier than authorities originally alleged when she was arrested last October in an alleged extortion scheme, according to a new federal indictment announced yesterday.

A grand jury handed up a superseding indictment yesterday that also added 23 additional charges against Wilkerson for activities that led to her previous indictment. Those charges did not cover the additional bribes that were alleged yesterday.

The Roxbury Democrat resigned in November following her original indictment, which accused her of accepting eight bribes totaling $23,500 to secure a liquor license for a nightclub and legislation to pave the way for a commercial development in Roxbury.

The new charges of theft of honest services and mail and wire fraud were added to the nine charges Wilkerson already faced, including one count of conspiring to extort cash "under color of official right" - that is, in her official capacity as a lawmaker - and eight counts of attempted extortion under color of official right.

But the indictment also alleged that Wilkerson accepted a previously undisclosed series of bribes from November 2002 to October 2006 from an individual who wanted her help with developing the state-owned property at Melnea Cass Boulevard and Washington Street.

The individual is identified only as "Witness D" and allegedly made a series of payments that ranged from $500 to $1,200. The indictment does not specify the number of payments but said they came after Wilkerson began asking Witness D for money.

"Concerned that Wilkerson would not support his development plans in the absence of payments, Witness D made a series of payments to Wilkerson . . . in connection with his plans to develop Parcel 8," the 32-page indictment reads.

Last year, Wilkerson urged the Roxbury Strategic Master Plan Oversight Committee, of which she was a nonvoting member, and the Boston Redevelopment Authority to separate the parcel from a comprehensive urban plan that applied to neighboring publicly owned properties, the indictment said.

Parcel 8 is one of many undeveloped sites in Roxbury that has been the focus of a community planning process for years. Development in the area is seen as critical to spurring development in an economically distressed corner of the city.

Wilkerson was not charged with any crimes in connection with the payments she allegedly received from Witness D, some of which occurred beyond the five-year federal statute of limitations. But prosecutors appeared to be trying to show that Wilkerson had engaged in a pattern of criminal behavior years before her arrest.

Her lawyer, Max D. Stern of Boston, said his client denies taking any money to help pave the way for a development.

"It's telling that although these allegations are thrown in in the course of an indictment where they have been able to add some 23 new counts, they have not managed to make a count out of this allegation," he said.

Shortly after Wilkerson's arrest on Oct. 29, Christopher Marrano, owner of Harrison Supply Co., told the Globe that his colleague, Azid Mohammed, had complained to him about pressure she had allegedly applied as he sought to develop Parcel 8 and property he owned next to it.

Mohammed said Wilkerson wanted him to team up on the project with an Atlanta developer, Marrano said. That developer turned out to be an undercover FBI agent who was allegedly paying Wilkerson bribes as part of the sting. Marrano said at the time that he was unaware of any cash payments; Mohammed did not return phone calls at the time. Neither man could be reached yesterday.

Each of the 32 charges that Wilkerson faces carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release, and a $250,000 fine, according to federal prosecutors.

Wilkerson's codefendant, Boston Councilor Chuck Turner, is charged with conspiring to extort cash under color of official right, one count of attempted extortion under color of official right, and three counts of making false statements to FBI agents. No new charges were filed against him yesterday.

Turner was arrested in November on charges of pocketing a $1,000 payment from a nightclub operator, Ronald Wilburn, a cooperating witness who participated in the FBI sting.

Shelley Murphy and Casey Ross of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Jonathan Saltzman can be reached at jsaltzman@globe.com