State Probation Department: 'Pervasive Fraud'

The Ware Report, 337 pages detailing massive corruption in the State Probation Department (SPD), confirms what has been one of the biggest jokes in the state and here in Berkshire County. Who, for example, is shocked to hear of a “corrupt” and “rigged” hiring system? Who is stunned to hear of “pervasive fraud” being the normal order of business?

Who’s surprised to hear that a huge number of  probation workers got jobs after giving money to political campaigns of lawmakers and that they were put to the top of the hiring list over people much more qualified wither for that reason of they were related to a politician? Who’s calling Ripley’s after reading legislators kept boosting the SPD budget at a much higher rate than other state departments?

Any comment, Cliff Nilan? We didn’t think so. Nilan has refused all comment from this reporter, even when we asked him face to face and by other means. For those of you who have undergone voluntary brainwashing in order to forget all you might know about how this Pillar of the Community handles business, especially when it involves his convicted criminal of a best friend, we inform you that Nilan is the head of the Berkshire County Probation Department. This is rather like being the head Lehman Brothers shortly before the economic shit hit the fan.

Attorney Paul Ware, who headed the probe for the Supreme Judicial Court, wrote that “A rigged process was in place by which [Probation Commission John] O’Brien saw to the hiring of politically anointed candidates[,] and in return legislators saw to it that Probation’s budget increased at a steady rate.”

The Supreme Judicial Court recommended that O’Brien and several of his top assistants be fired. THE PLANET would recommend that the ax also include anyone who got their job by fraudulent means.

The Ware probe turned up “sponsor lists” containing names of those people anointed for jobs by politicians. The lists, the report said, were kept by one of former House Speaker and convicted felon Tom Finneran’s aides. Finneran had no comment. The report said another ex-speaker, Sal DiMasi, and Senate President Bob Travaglini supplied names to the list with input from others. DiMasi is awaiting trial on federal corruption charges. Feds claim he accepted $57,000 in bribes.

Berkshire County Probation Department: Where’s the Stink?

THE PLANET’s quick read of the report didn’t turn up mention of a stink emanating from the Berkshire County Probation system. No surprise there, since local purview wasn’t the point of the Ware probe.

Want a laugh? The State Probation Department, just found profoundly and thoroughly corrupt by Ware, looked into cob-cooking in the local system. Do you think this dishonest department, the SPD, would be capable of an honest probe of one of its own? Would it be capable of honestly looking into whatever moral corruption, if any, stems from Nilan’s office?

The SPD slapped Nilan’s wrist for allowing his buddy Angelo Stracuzzi to skip the hassle of reporting to probation, the way every other common criminal has to do when so ordered. Probation was a condition of the deal Stracuzzi reached with York County, Maine, court officials after prosecutors there dropped Biddeford Police Department charges accusing Stracuzzi of two counts of patronizing the prostitution of a minor. Police charged him with two counts in cases involving 13 and 15-year-old boys in incidents they say occurred in late July 2005 on consecutive days.

ANGELO STRACUZZI: He knows Cliffy Nilan, really well.

Prosecutors dropped one charge of assault. Stracuzzi pleaded guilty to another assault charge and received suspended jail sentence, a year of probation switched from Maine to Pittsfield, and ordered to undergo psychological counseling. No evidence has turned up that shows Stracuzzi fulfilled the court-ordered counseling.

Nilan, by miraculous coincidence, not only was head of probation but also a senior board member at Greylock Federal Credit Union, where Stracuzzi was CEO.  Greylock’s executive board, with a straight face, claimed that in the intervening five years from its CEO’s bust in July 2005 until they gave Stracuzzi and Nilan the heave-ho, it knew nothing — a Sgt. Schultz “NAHH-THING” — of their CEO’s criminal past. … even though Nilan was a member of that board and Stracuzzi ran the whole shebang.

You had to feel for John Bissell, Greylock VP of marketing and their spokesman during the PR crisis. Just when he thought he had gotten out of the woods without the Mike DiCenzo SNAFU getting much attention, this happened. Oh well, that’s why guys like Bissell get the big bucks.

The third rail question, only at best tangentially related to the hiring fraud in Probation, that no one wants to touch is this: What, if anything, was going for years and maybe decades that involved Nilan, Stracuzzi, and other “Community Pillars?”

Why does the phrase “gay Mafia” keep popping up in discussions with community politicians, business leaders, and ordinary citizens? We don’t know. Maybe it refers to a bunch of underworld characters who are perpetually happy. We have no hard evidence to suggest otherwise. But gosh, if it doesn’t mean “happy” people, what could it mean? THE PLANET hasn’t a clue.

We are pleased that anyone, criminal or otherwise, can be gay as in happy. We love being gay as in happy. We love gay people, as in homosexual, who are consenting adults, of legal age. We have dear friends of that description.  We shall stop there.

THE PLANET makes no allegations. We put words to what every decent person knows in Pittsfield: Something ain’t what it seems.


  1. Still wondering
    November 19, 2010 at 10:19 am #

    Yup and we’ll never know the whole truth either.

  2. rick
    November 19, 2010 at 11:22 am #

    i say im shocked to hear theres corruption in boston politics!!!!! now it seem to have slimed its way up to the berks…. dan, i agree that all hires should be reevaluated and terminated /with predjudice. the state is a mess because of these goings on. qualified people cant even get an interview for jobs,because the position is already filled with a crony or a friend of one. or they get the interview just to make it look on the up and up. gotta make a lot of noise for boston to stop playing their wont happen in our lifetime,but its nice to hope…….. heres whats going to happen,they will be out of sight,out of mind for a while.. then back to buissness as usual. any body want to take the bet….its a sure bet.

  3. danvalenti
    November 19, 2010 at 3:22 pm #

    Yes, that is the infuriating aspect of the story. While good, decent people get shafted, these criminals have been getting phat by raiding our pockets. That’s what this amounts to. Think of the waste in this one department alone then next time the state cries “fiscal crisis.”

  4. DC
    November 19, 2010 at 6:49 pm #

    I have been a member of Greylock since my early days as an employee of GE. In the good old days, the PGEECU was noted for passing our perks and gifts to its members. Car loans would be accompanied by key chains, convenient loan storage envelopes, etc. It was most famous for the annual “baby Calendars”. And there was usually some type of financial annual bonus distributed to each account. On top of that interest paid to accounts for loans were always more beneficial to people than what the banks were offering.

    During the Stracuzzi years it became Greylock Federal Credit Union and all those goodies disappeared and have been replaced with multiple expenditures and interest rates about the same as other local financial institutions. All the various expansions throughout the county, into insurance offices, financial advisors and the sponsorship of assorted community functions have taken their place. Nothing much left for the individual members. On the surface it would appear that all the earnings were being used to promote Angelo himself. “Tell them Angelo sent you” was the message.

    A recent personal experience has only served to heighten my displeasure at his tenure. A need to place a “Stop Order” on a lost check was going to result in a $27 fee. Since the value of the check was less that that, I opted not to follow through, but at another local bank, that fee would not be levied because as I understand it in the States of Mass and MY, people 18 and under and 65 and older are exempted from certain bank fees. When I posted that information to one of the Credit Union reps, the response I got was “We’re not a bank”. Funny, I could swear I’ve heard Angelo commercially boast about being voted “The Best Bank in the Berkshires.”

    There was no oversite there when Stracuzzi and Nilan were there, and you can include LaBarbera. They all held high positions at Greylock, while Nilan and LaBarbera are serving on the Parks Commission, Stracuzzi and Labarbera have served together on the City Councl and Nilan heads the probaion office. It all seems a little too cozy and is bound to raise questions of impropriety.

    I commend you for your coverage of this unfortunate event and I sincerely hope that The Planet and Dan Valenti, as well as the Pittsfield Gazette, stay on top of this story. It is very possible that the best or worst, whicever it may be, is yet to be discovered.

    Thanks for your time.

  5. DC
    November 20, 2010 at 12:30 pm #

    The Stracuzzi story when it first came out was a bombshell. Other than his public life, I don’t care to know anything about him but I feel his reign at the Credit union affected me persopnally. The story that broke about his personal life has raised a number of unflattering rumors which if true could cause many unpleasant ramifications throughout the city. As I have said before, please stay on top of it and let’s not be afraid of any possible unpleasant truth.

  6. Jim Gleason
    November 20, 2010 at 1:22 pm #

    Should Stracuzzi now have to return to Maine to serve his probation, which he certainly did not do here. Cliffy let him slide on all counts. This is a terrible miscarriage of the law and you can be sure no little guy would’ve gotten away with what Stracuzzi did.

    • danvalenti
      November 20, 2010 at 2:22 pm #

      Our poster raises an excellent point. If the court orders X, Y, and Z as stipulations, especially to stipulations to charges that are dropped, and the criminal defendant does not fulfill her or his obligations, is not the person then in violation of a court order. In Stracuzzi’s case, he was given probation, which was moved to Pittsfield, and ordered to undergo psychological counseling. There’s no evidence he fulfilled the court’s orders.

  7. rick
    November 21, 2010 at 5:25 am #

    smells like theres collusion between the berk.and maine probation depts…… and the story goes on…….