July 21, 2006: In an age of social erosion it's nice to know that in
Springfield, Massachusetts, families still count. As in; one
million, two million, three million. And so on and so forth...
On July 7th, Carol Aranjo, hubby Alphonso Smith, and son Douglas
Smith, were arrested and charged with looting the D. Edward Wells
Federal Credit Union in Springfield. Where Aranjo had served as
chief executive. By 2003 the institution had tanked. The National
Credit Union Administration (NCUA) liquidated Wells Federal and
the NCUA insurance fund covered $2.9 million in losses. In early
2006, NCUA filed a civil suit against Carol Aranjo, plus Alphonso
and Doug Smith. The suit also names 2 other sons of Carol Aranjo.
One lives in Springfield. The other in Arizona. Still, Mom
manages to keep in touch.
According to the 86 count federal indictment and the NCUA civil
suit, Carol Aranjo funneled bogus loans from the credit union
to her family. Non-familial associates benefitted as well. On
July 12th, a family friend pled guilty to joining the jamboree.
As usual in Springfield, the feds seem to be working their way
up the ladder.
Along with dipping into credit union funds meant to assist low-
income minority borrowers, juggling finances to cover accounting
gaps, and using the institution's credit card to buy a time share
in Mexico, Mother Aranjo supposedly rerouted money from a charter
school and other community institutions into son Doug's business,
D.A.T. Construction. Alphonso Smith allegedly perped a few
mortgage frauds and along with Doug, submitted phoney bids for
development deals in Springfield. Ones juiced by the U.S.
Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD). In 1999, right
before D. Edward Wells rocketed downhill, Carol Aranjo, in her
official position as chair of the National Association of
Community Development Credit Unions, went to Washington. To
testify at a HUD budget hearing. Urging HUD to deposit its
Community Development Block Grant (CDBG)* funds in credit unions.
Bemoaning the fact that some states only allowed local government
agencies to deposit the funds in banks, rather than member-owned
The House of Asselin
Clan Aranjo isn't the only family in Springfield to be indicted
en masse. Consider the House of Asselin. Once synonymous with the
Springfield Housing Authority (SHA). Raymond Asselin Sr. was
executive director of the HUD funded SHA for three decades.
Ray and his family, including his wife and a passel of adult
children, allegedly treated the SHA like their own private
trough. When an Asselin needed a home rehab, the SHA picked up
the tab. Public contractors seeking SHA business were glad to
contribute. Heated swimming pools and loads of loam appeared in
Asselin yards as though by magic. If an Asselin needed pocket
change, laundry rooms in SHA low-income housing projects
surrendered their quarters. And when an Asselin-- specifically,
X State Representative Christopher Asselin-- ran for office,
the SHA helped fund the campaign. The one his Mom, Janet
Though tight knit, the Asselins weren't insular. For example,
patriarch Ray Asselin, allegedly "facilitated" a $50,000
consulting fee from a public housing project for Francis G.
Keough III, a former City Council President and director of
Friends of the Homeless. In return, Keough "negotiated" a county
government job for James Asselin, Ray's son. Though Jim-Boy was
later convicted of embezzling $600,000 from the CDBG funded
Greater Springfield Entrepreneurial Fund, Papa Ray was no piker.
He didn't ask Keough to return the consulting fee. He's not
that kind of hairpin.
As for Francis Keough, he appears to be a bent hairpin. Not
because he allegedly helped himself to CDBG funds, engaged in
assorted housing and real estate frauds, or lobbied City Hall on
behalf of generous public contractors. Like-- who doesn't do
that? Keough qualifies because he allegedly used his friends, the
homeless, as free labor to rehab his beach-front vacation home in
Rhode Island, and extorted sex from shelter residents in exchange
for HUD funded "affordable" housing. Keough himself has no
housing problems; he's in federal custody awaiting trial.
The family Asselin will go to trial come September. Plea bargains
may be in the works. According to some, Springfield's in-crowd
wants the Asselins to cop. Fearing a trial will illuminate the
dark at the top of the stairs. Springfield is the third largest
city in Massachusetts. The largest city in western Massachusetts,
in what's known as the Pioneer Valley. If Ray Asselin turned the
Springfield Housing Authority into a family fiefdom, it didn't
happen in a vacuum. The Asselins are woven into the highest and
most venerable layers of regional corruption. In post-industrial
urban centers a river of federal assistance runs to anything
labelled housing, development, or revitalization. In Springfield,
that river lifted the boats of the corrupt for decades. While
poverty remained intransigent, neighborhoods declined, democracy
diminished, and organized drug traffic flourished. Yet the river
kept right on rolling.
The current federal investigations in Springfield apparently
began in 2000, during the administration of X Mayor Mike Albano.
X Mayor Mike has not-- repeat-- NOT been indicted. (Though over
in Chicopee, the Pioneer Valley's second largest city, hapless X
Mayor Richard Goyette was indicted last Autumn. For extorting
political contributions in exchange for HUD development deals.
Allegedly.) The probes in Springfield were said to be focused on
government corruption and organized crime. Springfield has an
extensive record re the latter. In the past 5 years, dozens of
public and quasi-public servants have been indicted and convicted
on corruption charges. Organized crime remains a sub motif
running through a number of the investigations.
The Brothers Ardolino
Anthony Ardolino was X Mayor Mike Albano's former chief of staff.
A thirty-something bully boy. His older brother, Chester
Ardolino, was a police officer, and former president of the
Patrolmen's Union. In early 2005, Chet Ardolino was convicted
of real estate fraud. Back when the fraud was in the planning
stage, he discussed the deal (an inflated flip) with his co-
conspirator, a personal friend of Mayor Mike, in the city hall
office of his brother, Anthony Ardolino. Among the industry pros
involved in the transaction was a mob linked property peddler,
plus a closing attorney, Albert V. Innarelli. Chester Ardolino
did a few months of house arrest for the fraud. Now both brothers
face new charges relating to their hidden ownership in several
bars, including one with organized crime ties.
When serving as X Mayor Mike's chief of staff, Anthony Ardolino
allegedly attempted to funnel CDBG funds into those bars, via a
HUD bucked spruce-up of downtown Springfield's storefronts. Both
Ardolino brothers also fixed a trunk load of parking tickets for
one of their secret partners, real estate developer Matthew
Campagnari. Campagnari has been charged along with the Ardolino
brothers. According to the federal indictment, Campagnari tried
to negotiate silence from several Grand Jury witnesses during the
investigation, by showing one a gun and telling another to take
the "fucking fifth amendment".
When talking public safety in Springfield, former Police
Commission Chairman Gerald A. Philips springs to mind. Philips
went on to become Executive Director of the HUD assisted, quasi-
public, Massachusetts Career Development Institute (MCDI) and
director of the Greater Springfield Entrepreneurial Fund. Philips
was convicted in 2005 on 4 counts of fraud, related to kickbacks
and a no-show job scheme at the Career Development Institute.
However, the jury didn't buy the testimony of a scheming teenage
welfare vixen who claimed Philips got her a no-show job and
bumped her up a HUD rental housing list in exchange for sex. Or
that Philips threatened that if she testified to a Grand Jury,
she'd "disappear". Though acquitted of the charges based on these
wild tales, the question of whether Philips arranged preferential
housing treatment for his boffette resurfaced in relation to the
upcoming House of Asselin/Springfield Housing Authority trial.
One last tale of the city Springfield. Albert Innarelli, the
attorney (now disbarred) who helped Officer Chester Ardolino
close on his mortgage fraud, pled guilty this Spring to charges
related to a series of real estate frauds which took place over
a period of years. Many, though not all, involved inner city
neighborhoods, and Federal Housing Administration (FHA) insured
mortgages. The FHA is under HUD's big umbrella. After the
inflated flips, many mortgages went into default. Leaving
taxpayers holding the bag and neighborhoods reeling from another
round of unreal real estate. Springfield after all, being one
of the cities where in 2001, an audit by HUD revealed a high
incidence of fraud in the "Officer Next Door" program. Which
let police officers purchase FHA foreclosed homes in poor, crime
ridden neighborhoods for half price, providing the cops lived in
them for 3 years. The theory was that having cops living in such
nabes would help stabilize them. Alas. Too many cops turned into
absentee slumlords or fly-by-night flippers. Or applied the
discount to condos in gated communities.
The plain old straw-buyer-next-door real estate frauds perped by
Albert Innarelli involved several groups of well organized
players. Some hailed from areas surrounding Springfield. But
Reverend Paul J. Starnes of the Morning Star Church targeted
folks in his inner city congregation for home buying opportunity.
Starnes owned Trinity Mortgage Brokerage and was a partner
in Trinity Land. The latter bought and marketed distressed
properties. Rehabs were done with spit and a prayer. When Starnes
entered his guilty plea in early July, he sounded, via his
attorney, none too communicative. But when Albert Innarelli pled,
his plea was packed with pathos. Cocaine. Sob. Gambling. Sob.
Both addictions now under control thanks to counseling and his
support group. Whoever that is.
These are only a few Springfield stories. Local good government
types know the score far better. Some would like to have
that score brought out in the open and finally acknowledged
fully. Knowing that unless Springfield becomes a naked city,
it can never experience rebirth. But will instead remain
in an endless cycle of revitalization.
Finally, if Ray Asselin and his family are found guilty, whether
by verdict or plea, of looting the Springfield Housing Authority,
one hopes they will be allowed to serve their sentences together.
Prison guards spend a lot of time with some pretty debased
examples of humanity. It would do them a world of good to be
around a tight knit family and their affectionate rituals.
Like the lights out litany of-- Goodnight Dad. Goodnight Mom.
Goodnight Chris. Goodnight Jim-Boy. And so on and so forth...
Carola Von Hoffmannstahl-Solomonoff
"The biggest rat we had in prison was a preacher who'd gypped
his congregation out of the dough he was supposed to build a
W. R. Burnett, High Sierra, 1940
"When government hands you a culture of corruption, make a culture of
Matt Barr, Socratic Rhythm Method, www.mattbarr.com
Sources include but are not limited to:
Friend of Springfield credit union head admits embezzlement role,
Associated Press, 07/12/06
Press Release, "Former Credit Union Director Along With Spouse And
Son Charged With Fraud," The United States Attorney's Office,
District of Massachusetts, Updated 07/10/06
HUD Office of Inspector General-Community Planning and
Development Investigation Semiannual Results, Public Corruption,
Springfield, MA, Updated 06/09/06
HUD Office of Inspector General-Single Family Housing
Investigation Semiannual Results, Loan Origination Fraud,
Springfield, MA, 06/08/06
"68 Guilty Pleas from land-flip ex-lawyer," Buffy Spencer, The Republican, 04/25/06
"Lawsuit targets Springfield credit union," Marcia Bloomberg, The Republican, 02/14/06
Press Release, "Chicopee Mayor Arrested On Corruption Charges,"
Department of Justice, United States Attorney, District of
Press Release, "Former Springfield Mayoral Chief of Staff, Police
Officer and Bar Owner indicted..." Department of Justice, United
States Attorney, District of Massachusetts, 10/31/05
"'HUD Homes For Sale' Fraud Amounts To Billions In Abuse," The Realtygram, 02/15/05
"Feds Arrest Albano Supporters in Mortgage Scam," Stephanie Kraft, Valley Advocate, New Mass Media, 01/22/04
Press Release, "Former MCDI Officials Indicted For Wire Fraud,
Program Fraud, And Obstruction Of Justice," ED.gov, Investigative
"Official Urges HUD Deposit Funds in CU," Credit Union Journal Daily, 02/05/99
*HUD's CDBG program is primarily intended to help build low and
moderate income housing, and improve overall social conditions
in distressed neighborhoods. Local governments have a great
deal of leeway in deciding just what constitutes distressed
neighborhoods and improvement".
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