Mass. Probation Department Confirms Federal Probe

Federal investigators have asked the leaders of the Massachusetts Probation Department to preserve all agency documents amid a widening criminal investigation into whether politicians provided the agency with an expanded budget in exchange for jobs for their friends.

U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz sent acting Probation Administrator John Corbett Jr. a letter notifying him that a grand jury is investigating alleged violations of federal laws, The Boston Globe reported Tuesday. Ortiz ordered probation officials to preserve e-mails, laptop files, BlackBerry text messages and all paper records.

"In light of the potential criminal liability for the destruction of documents, we determined that all Probation employees were appropriate recipients" of the order, the agency said in a statement to The Associated Press and other news agencies.

Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley has already announced a state investigation into the 2,000-person agency following a series of stories in the Globe that raised questions about the hiring practices of Probation Commissioner John O'Brien.

Paul Ware, an independent counsel hired by the Supreme Judicial Court, subsequently issued a report saying the department is host to "systemic fraud." The report also said potential crimes could include wire and mail fraud, because the agency mailed rejection letters to job applicants who lost out amid a rigged application process.

O'Brien has since been suspended and could be fired as early as this week.

The Globe reported Ortiz sent the letter to Corbett on Nov. 18, the same day Ware released his 307-page report.

A federal grand jury is convened to hear testimony from witnesses and determine whether indictments are warranted. It also has the power to subpoena records. Preserving all forms of communication gives a grand jury the largest possible source of evidence from which to conduct its work.

This program aired on November 30, 2010. The audio for this program is not available.


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