Lee Police Chief charged with stealing $4K from holiday toy fund

LEE, Mass. – The Lee Police Chief has been indicted Thursday for extortion and three counts of money laundering, the U.S. Attorney in Massachusetts says.

Prosecutors say 55-year-old Joseph Buffis of Pittsfield was acting as Lee Police Chief when he allegedly extorted a $4,000 “donation” from two individuals who were facing prostitution-related charges. The “donation” was made to the Edward J. Laliberte Toy Fund, a holiday toy fund that Buffis controlled. Buffis deposited the $4,000 check into the Toy Fund's bank account, and quickly withdrew $3,990 which he then deposited into a joint bank account that he shared with his wife to pay for personal expenses.

He then is alleged to have lied to law enforcement about the disposition of the funds.

The FBI, Massachusetts State Police, U.S. Attorney and Berkshire County District Attorney worked on the investigation.

“To be entrusted to serve and protect is a great honor and privilege. The alleged actions of Chief Buffis disgrace the many incredible law enforcement stewards who uphold and enforce the law. Actions like these threaten the credibility of our justice system, and we will not stand idly by and allow the trust of our communities to be violated,” said United States Attorney Carmen Ortiz.

The U.S. Attorney's Office is asking anyone who donated cash or toys to the Edward J. Lalilberte Toy Fund or for those who have applied to the Edward J. Laliberte Toy Fund, please contact the FBI in Springfield at (413) 732-0159.

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