Prostitution case dismissed against former Lee innkeepers
GREAT BARRINGTON — Criminal charges have been dropped against the former owners of the Inn at Laurel Lake in connection with the federal extortion case against former Lee Police Chief Joseph Buffis.
The Southern Berkshire District Court has confirmed the prostitution case against Tara Viola and Thomas Fusco was dismissed Nov. 23 under the terms of an agreement reached in August with the court and the Berkshire District Attorney's Office. That deal stipulated that the charges would be dropped if the couple stayed out of further legal trouble.
An Eagle story on Monday regarding the inn, renamed LakeHouse Inn by the new owners, incorrectly reported the charges were still pending.
Viola had been charged with sexual conduct for a fee, keeping a house of prostitution and conspiracy; Fusco had been charged with keeping a house of prostitution and conspiracy. The accusations stem from a police raid of the inn in January 2012 as part of an investigation into alleged prostitution in the area.
In June, a federal jury convicted Buffis of extorting the couple into making a $4,000 contribution to the Laliberte Toy Fund he ran in exchange for their charges being dropped on the condition they agree to a nondisclosure agreement.
An investigation into the level of secrecy surrounding the clerk magistrate hearing at which that deal was reached triggered a larger investigation surrounding Buffis' handling of the toy fund finances.
The jury found Buffis guilty of the extortion charge, but cleared him of 10 other charges related to his handling of the toy fund, including money laundering and wire fraud. The former police chief has yet to be sentenced.
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