Federal prosecutors are asking a grand jury to weigh charges, including fraud, extortion, and conspiracy, in the widening patronage scandal that has staggered the Massachusetts Probation Department, reports the Boston Globe. U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz has ordered probation officials to preserve all documents that could be used as evidence in the criminal probe, including e-mails, laptop files, BlackBerry text messages, and all of the agency's paper records. “This letter shall notify you that a federal grand jury is and has been conducting an investigation into allegations relating to violations of certain federal statutes,'' Ortiz wrote to Ronald Corbett Jr., acting commissioner.
News of the federal investigation comes just days after Attorney General Martha Coakley said she has assigned a team of state prosecutors to “aggressively pursue'' charges that might stem from bogus hiring and promotion practices at the 2,000-employee state agency. The twin criminal investigations were launched after the Supreme Judicial Court strongly endorsed a damning report by an independent counsel who concluded that the Probation Department is riddled with fraud and “systemic corruption.''