Former Lee Police Chief Joseph Buffis' sentencing set for March 3


SPRINGFIELD — Sentencing of former Lee Police Chief Joseph Buffis on his extortion conviction, which has been delayed several times, has been scheduled for March 3 in U.S. District Court.

Buffis was convicted on June 9, 2015, of one count of extortion for illegally soliciting $4,000 from a Lee couple in exchange for dropping pending criminal charges. Those charges were eventually dropped last November.

Buffis was acquitted of 10 other counts related to his handling of the finances connected to the Edward J. Laliberte Toy Fund, which he oversaw while serving as chief.

Immediately following the announcement of the guilty verdict, federal prosecutor Stephen Breslow sought a sentencing date of Sept. 24, but that was pushed back to Oct. 19, by agreement, to allow Buffis the opportunity to attend his daughter's wedding.

Sentencing was pushed back to Dec. 7 after Buffis' attorney, Lori Levinson, filed a motion seeking to have her client's extortion conviction overturned.

That motion was denied by presiding Judge Mark G. Mastroianni in December, saying Levinson's argument for acquittal had "no merit."

According to the U.S. Attorney's Office, the maximum penalty Buffis faces on the extortion conviction is 20 years in prison, five years of supervised release and a fine of $250,000. Buffis' sentence will likely be far less than the maximum.

Buffis also faces a second trial on a charge of mail fraud for allegedly charging the Town of Lee for cellphone lines that were intended for members of the Lee Police Department, but were used by members of Buffis' family instead.

At the most recent hearing in the case in December, Breslow said that case may be sent back to Berkshire Superior Court to be heard, rather than at the federal level, but no determination has yet been made.

Contact Bob Dunn at 413-496-6249.


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