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Mass. inspector accused of taking bribe to help felon get liquor license

Hitchman allegedly offered to sell the undercover officer illegal video poker machines. Hitchman allegedly offered to sell the undercover officer illegal video poker machines.
By Matt Byrne
Globe Correspondent / July 14, 2010

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An inspector for the Massachusetts Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission was arrested yesterday and charged with accepting a cash bribe of several thousand dollars to help a convicted felon obtain a liquor license, the Middlesex district attorney’s office said.

Arthur Hitchman, 39, of Melrose was charged with attempted extortion, bribery, and two counts of improperly storing a firearm. He pleaded not guilty yesterday afternoon in Malden District Court, the district attorney’s office said.

In exchange for $3,000 in cash, prosecutors say, Hitchman offered to obtain the liquor license for a convicted felon who was attempting to open a restaurant in Everett.

“This defendant is accused of taking advantage of his position of authority to grant a liquor license in exchange for personal gain,’’ said District Attorney Gerard T. Leone Jr. “This defendant’s criminal actions . . . are in direct violation of the trust bestowed upon him and jeopardize the safety of the people of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.’’

Hitchman was hired as an inspector by the commission in 2001, said Kim Gainsboro, commission chairwoman. Citing confidentiality, Gainsboro said she was unable to discuss Hitchman’s job performance or other personnel matters.

Before working as a liquor inspector, Hitchman held a host of government jobs, including a seven-year stint as an alderman in Melrose. He also worked for three years as a legislative aide for state Senator Richard R. Tisei.

Hitchman was unavailable for comment, and an unidentified man who answered the telephone at his Boardman Street home in Melrose declined to comment yesterday.

Gainsboro said Hitchman has been suspended without pay. The commission has cooperated in the investigation and was unaware of the pending arrest until yesterday morning, she said.

“The DA’s office will have all the tools necessary to successfully prosecute those that betray the public trust,’’ she said.

According to authorities, the Everett restaurateur had planned to obtain the license and run his business using the name of a female relative. The district attorney’s office would not comment on the legality of that plan.

Hitchman intervened, according to the district attorney, offering to help obtain the license in the relative’s name for $3,000. At that point, a relative of the restaurateur notified State Police, said Cara O’Brien, a spokeswoman for the district attorney. An undercover state trooper, posing as the female relative’s husband met Hitchman May 18 to deliver the money, which he accepted, the district attorney said.

Hitchman also, unprompted by law enforcement, allegedly offered in recorded conversations to sell the undercover officer illegal video poker machines worth thousands of dollars, suggesting the machines could be used to generate illegal profit at the Everett establishment.

A search warrant was executed yesterday morning at Hitchman’s house, where state troopers recovered two 9mm semiautomatic pistols, one of which was loaded, Leone said. Neither pistol was secured in a locked container or had a safety device of any kind, O’Brien said.

Hitchman was ordered held on $3,000 cash bail.

Matt Byrne can be reached at themattbyrne@gmail.com.

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