BOSTON — The former Fitchburg state senator and Republican 3rd Congressional District candidate Dean Tran was indicted by a Suffolk County grand jury on charges of violating state ethics laws.
Attorney General Andrea Campbell’s office announced on Friday that Tran, 47, was charged with two counts of use of an official position to secure unwarranted privilege when he used his Senate staff to campaign for him on state time and payroll.
The AG’s Office said the violations occurred during Tran’s 2018 and 2020 reelection campaigns. The alleged campaign activities included organizing fundraisers, knocking on doors, and putting together campaign mailers. The alleged activities occurred during official work hours at the MassGOP campaign regional field office in Fitchburg.
The matter was referred to the AG’s Office by the Office of Campaign and Political Finance following a report from the Senate Committee on Ethics in 2020.
Within the 15-page report it states Senate President Karen Spilka’s office first received anonymous letters in October 2019, addressed to the Ethics Commission, alleging the misdeeds.
One letter stated staffers were allegedly told by Tran they must campaign for him and that doing so was part of the job. Another letter stated staffers “are always asked to do all fundraising, always asked to put constituents on invite fundraiser list,” according to the report.
Following the conclusion of a preliminary investigation in early January 2020, the report states Tran was approached about the allegations, which he denied, while asserting his staff was “totally autonomous.” Tran said, according to the report, that staff members may have attended campaign events, but they never touched any campaign fundraising.
A formal investigation was opened in late January 2020. The investigation included interviews with Tran staffers, review of text messages and other documents supplied by witnesses, email records for Tran and his staff, and personnel records. The report states the content of the investigation supported the allegations contained in the letters received in October 2019.
In March 2020, the report states the Senate Committee on Ethics met with Tran, who asserted all personnel and office management issues were under “the purview” of a former senior staffer. Tran said all his employees performed their responsibilities appropriately, based on their job descriptions.
Tran told The Sun on Saturday that he was made aware of the indictment late Friday night when a friend contacted him after reading about the allegations on social media.
In a statement to The Sun, Tran said, “I served in the Senate with integrity and honesty and worked hard to serve the people in my district. I successfully completed the ethics training and I had my chief of staff conferred with the Ethics Commission on their responsibilities and actions. As a Republican and the first Vietnamese and Asian born American elected to the Senate, I was very aware to adhere to every rule and protocol set by the senate for senators and their offices. At no point in time during my service did I perform unethically.”
Tran came up short in his reelection bid against Democrat John Cronin in 2020. Two years later, Tran was again unsuccessful when he challenged U.S. Rep. Lori Trahan for the 3rd Congressional District.
In the midst of his congressional campaign, Tran was indicted by a Worcester County grand jury in connection with the alleged theft of a firearm from an elderly constituent.
The office of then-Attorney General Maura Healey stated at the time that while visiting an elderly constituent in June 2019, Tran allegedly used his position as a state senator to intimidate the constituent into parting with her dead husband’s firearms.
Tran pleaded not guilty and proceeded to file a federal lawsuit and injunction claiming Healey was motivated by partisan politics when she filed the charges against him. His lawsuit was later dismissed.
For the latest indictment, Tran will be arraigned in Suffolk County Superior Court at a later date.
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