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FBI intensifies probe of grants

FBI intensifies probe of grants

By Sean P. Murphy, Globe Staff, 3/4/2004

A federal grand jury investigation into the handling of grants during James P. Jajuga's 16-month tenure as state public safety secretary has intensified following the Feb. 17 suicide of Richard St. Louis, a friend of Jujuga's and a former state employee who received more than $2 million as a consultant from grants approved by Jajuga.

FBI agents late last month obtained hundreds of pages of financial documents from the North Eastern Massachusetts Law Enforcement Council, the regional organization of about 40 municipal police departments that received a majority of the largest grants awarded during Jajuga's tenure, according to a local law enforcement official familiar with the investigation and a review of grant records.

The FBI investigation is focusing on Jajuga's role in approving about $7 million in grants in 2001 and 2002 to law enforcement organizations represented by St. Louis, according to a state public safety official familiar with the investigation.

St. Louis's clients paid him $2.1 million under the terms of those grants, state records show. St. Louis is described in grant applications and invoices as providing his clients with resource development and grant administration services, according to a Globe review of grant records.

The FBI is trying to determine whether St. Louis's fees were paid by law enforcement organizations in exchange for getting approval for a grant, according to the public safety official.

Last week, FBI agents investigating grant paperwork submitted to the state last year by St. Louis contacted the New Jersey automotive company that sold three emergency response vehicles to Massachusetts law enforcement organizations, according to a person familiar with the FBI's phone call to the New Jersey supplier. The FBI asked the automotive company to supply full documentation for the vehicle purchases, according to the person familiar with the phone call. Last month, a police chief involved in the grant program wrote to federal officials that Crest Associates, St. Louis's consulting firm, submitted "fabricated or inflated" invoices to the state.

Also late last month, the FBI contacted employees of the state Executive Office of Public Safety for information on St. Louis's relationship with police chiefs in municipalities that have received grants, according to a person familiar with the FBI's calls to state employees.

A small cadre of employees at the public safety agency last March went to the FBI to disclose St. Louis's central role in the grant program, according to state employees familiar with the FBI investigation. While the program is run by the state, funding comes from the US Department of Justice. The grants are intended to underwrite law enforcement initiatives.

The employees told FBI agents that St. Louis, as the administrator of grants, filed financial reports so lacking in details that the state employees who were supposed to be monitoring the grant program could not determine how much money St. Louis was being paid, according to state employees familiar with the FBI probe.

In much of the grant paperwork, fees are listed as being paid for "contract services," without specifying the recipient.

Jajuga left office in January 2003, replaced by Governor Mitt Romney's own public safety secretary, Edward A. Flynn. Jajuga went into business as a public safety consultant, and collaborated with St. Louis in at least one project involving an attempt to secure grants for the state drug court. Jajuga and his lawyer, Thomas Kiley, did not return calls seeking comment.

St. Louis hanged himself on Feb. 17, in Georgia, where he was visiting a brother. Mark W. Pearlstein, St. Louis's lawyer, declined to comment on the investigation.

Meanwhile, officials in Flynn's office said last week that an outside auditing firm will be hired to conduct a detailed audit of grant expenditures.
 
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