A former Massachusetts police chief has been accused of stealing more than $50,000 from his department’s Christmas charity toy fund. Joseph Buffis allegedly diverted nearly all of the $52,000 he collected for the Lee Police Department between 2007 and 2010 to his own bank account.
Prosecutors say that Buffis used the money, intended to purchase gifts for needy children, to pay off his own credit card debt. During that period, only one family received a check for $250 to assist with Christmas toys.
In 2010 alone, the fund received 706 checks from 423 donors, but deposited just $145 into the bank account set up for the charity.
The former police chief, who was fired when charges came to light, allegedly extorted two innkeepers with the threat of charging them with prostitution-related crimes. While it is unclear if there would have been any merit to the charges, prosecutors said that the “donation” made its way into Buffis’ bank account.
Buffis, who had sole control over the bank account used for the toy fund, denies the initial charges of extortion and money laundering, but has said nothing on the additional charges that have been added. The new charges include “extortion by wrongful use of fear and under color of official right” and wire fraud.
Despite what prosecutors say is a clear paper trail proving the former police chief’s crimes, Buffis claims that 100 to 130 needy kids receive gifts annually. He said officers would package toys and hand-deliver them if needed.
View court documents, below: