The Boston Division of the FBI announced on Monday a new initiative designed to solicit the public’s help in identifying and targeting public corruption in Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Rhode Island.
The national campaign was announced at press conferences held in regional FBI headquarters across the nation. It will focus on targeting fraud and corruption at all levels of government, according to a press release. The initiative includes the launch of a new, toll-free tip line number, 844-NOBRIBE (844-662-7423), and a billboard campaign called Stop Corruption Now. Online tips can be submitted at tips.fbi.gov.
“Concerned citizens are the FBI’s biggest asset when it comes to exposing people who are abusing the public’s trust and misusing taxpayer money to line their own pockets,” Special Agent in Charge Vincent B. Lisi said in the release. “This tip line is designed to be an easy way for those with knowledge of schemes to report those schemes.”
Each year, the U.S. Department of Justice submits a report to Congress on the public integrity section of the Department of Justice. Between Jan. 1, 2004, and Dec. 31, 2013, 21,319 individuals were charged with public corruption crimes, and 19,071 were convicted in that same time period. Information about the number of people charged but found not guilty were not included in the report.
During that decade, 35 people were convicted on public corruption charges in Maine, the report said.
Former Chelsea selectwoman Carole Swan, 56, was sentenced in June in U.S. District Court in Bangor to seven years and three months in federal prison on charges of extortion and tax and workers’ compensation fraud. A jury found that Swan tried to extort $20,000 from Frank Monroe, a Whitefield contractor, so he could get and keep a lucrative plowing contract.
Her case is not included in the report because she was convicted in 2014.
Various types of corruption include bribery, extortion, embezzlement, racketeering, kickbacks, money laundering and wire, mail, bank and tax fraud. The public is encouraged to review these corruption questionnaires for awarding contracts, distributing economic stimulus funds and government fraud. If the answer is yes to any of these questions, the FBI should be contacted.
Public corruption remains a top criminal priority for the FBI, the release said. Government officials — whether elected, appointed or under contract — who use their public office for personal gain are violating the public’s trust. It is a violation of federal law for any federal, state or local government official to receive anything of value in exchange for, or because of, any official act.
One area of growing concern over the last few years is the expansion of gaming, which also may increase public corruption, financial and organized crime, according to the release.
In connection with this initiative, advertisements for the tip line also will appear on Facebook in the coming weeks.