LEE, Mass. — Monday, at approximately 5:30 p.m., Trooper Gary Ruef of the Westfield Barracks came upon a crash on Route 90 the Mass Pike eastbound at the 12.6 mile marker in Lee.
Upon arrival, Trooper Ruef discovered that a 2014 Peterbilt tractor-trailer, had struck the rear of a 2018 International tandem tractor-trailer that was traveling in the right travel lane at a slow speed. Upon crashing into the rear of the trailer, the load being carried on the trailer consisting of re-bar shifted forward and penetrated into the cab of the tractor. The truck also caught on fire from the crash. T
Ruef and several bystanders, including an off-duty and a retired firefighter, attempted to extricate the driver from the truck. Their attempts were unsuccessful and they were forced to retreat from the engulfing fire.
The driver of the tractor-trailer, Jordan Hunt, a 31-year-old man of Genesse, Pa., was determined to be deceased at the crash scene.
Preliminary investigation has revealed the tractor-trailer driven by Hunt was traveling in the right travel lane. The tandem tractor-trailer was also traveling in the right travel lane at a slow speed. Witness statements indicate Hunt applied his brakes just prior to hitting the Tandem tractor-trailer.
The remaining facts and circumstances of the crash are currently under investigation by troopers assigned to the State Police Westfield Barracks, State Police Collision Analysis Reconstruction Section (CARS), State Police Crime Scene Services Section (CSSS), the Commercial vehicle enforcement Section (CVES) and Lee Fire all assisted on scene.
LEE, Mass. — A Medford woman died after a one-car crash on the Massachusetts Turnpike on Monday morning.
The accident, which occurred in the westbound lane near the 13.6 mile marker in Lee, was reported at 7:48 a.m.
Bernadette D. Murch, 53, the operator and only occupant of the vehicle, was transported to Berkshire Medical Center in Pittsfield. She was pronounced dead a short time after arrival.
Preliminary investigation by Trooper Eric Bauman indicates that Murch's 2015 Fiat 500 was westbound in Lee when, for reasons still under investigation, the vehicle went off the right side of the road and rolled over.
The investigation is being conducted by state troopers assigned to the Westfield barracks with the assistance of state police detectives assigned to the Berkshire district attorney's office and troopers assigned to the Crime Scene Services and Collision Analysis and Reconstruction Sections of the state police. State police were assisted by Lee Fire, EMS and the Massachusetts Department of Transportation.
Lee Police Officer Resigns Amid Evidence Theft Investigation
LEE, Mass. — A police officer has resigned while being investigated for allegedly stealing evidence.
The district attorney's office says Ryan Lucy, one of two evidence officers for the Lee Police Department, resigned and entered substance abuse rehabilitation treatment on Aug. 29. He is cooperating with investigators, the district attorney's office says, with an investigation regarding theft of evidence.
The Police Department became suspicious in late July when cash from an investigation went missing. State Police detectives were called to audit the department's evidence.
A total of $1,408 in cash was found to be missing from the evidence locker from two investigations and one prior disposed criminal case. The money has been returned since the first phase of the investigation.
Detectives also discovered that drugs received through the department's drop box for unused medications were stolen.
The audit is not complete but the district attorney's office says it does not appear that any other evidence related to pending or recently completed cases has been compromised.
The office says no further information will be forthcoming until the investigation is completed.
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — A former Lee police chief is facing further charges related to stealing from a Christmas toy fund.
Joseph Buffis, 56, of Pittsfield was charged Thursday in U.S. District Court in a superseding indictment with three counts of wire fraud, mail fraud and four counts of money laundering, according to a statement from the U.S. Attorney's office.
On Aug. 8, 2013, Buffis was charged in an initial indictment with extortion and three counts of money laundering.
According to the superseding indictment, Buffis used his position as a police officer to solicit public donations on behalf of the Edward J. Laliberte Toy Fund, ostensibly to use for toy purchases for needy families, primarily by sending notices on Lee Police Department letterhead to The Berkshire Eagle, which regularly published them in its print and online editions.
Buffis' notices were materially fraudulent and false, say prosecutors, in that they failed to disclose that he was using a substantial part of the donations for his personal use. Donated toys, they say, were distributed to mask the diversion of cash and check contributions.
As alleged in the superseding indictment, from January 2007 through December 2011, Buffis deposited 706 checks into the Toy Fund account from 343 different donors totaling $52,105. During this same period, he deposited cash only once: a deposit of $145 on Nov. 23, 2010. Buffis wrote only one Toy Fund check of $250 to a needy family in December 2009. From Jan. 1, 2007, through Jan. 31, 2012, Buffis wrote approximately 53 checks totaling approximately $51,044, a substantial portion of which he used for the benefit of himself and his family. These checks included checks written to Buffis and/or "Cash" and deposited into accounts which he owned with family members.
Also, in February 2012, Buffis extorted a $4,000 check payable to the Toy Fund from two individuals who were facing prostitution-related charges, according to the indictment. He deposited the check into the Toy Fund's bank account and quickly withdrew $3,990 with three checks that he wrote to "Cash" but deposited into a joint bank account that he operated with his wife.
In addition, after becoming chief in 2011, he arranged for the town of Lee to provide the police force with four iPhones — one for himself and three for other officers. Rather than distribute the three iPhones, he gave them to his wife and their two children for their own personal use, according to the indictment, and cost the town $5,091 for the phone service.
The charging statutes provide a sentence of no greater than 20 years in prison, five years of supervised release, and a fine of $250,000 on each count.
U.S. Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz; Vincent B. Lisi, special agent in charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Boston Field Division; and Timothy P. Alben, commissioner of the Massachusetts State Police, made the announcement Thursday. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven H. Breslow of Ortiz's Springfield Branch Office.
Lee Police Chief Indicted On Extortion, Money Laundering Charges
LEE, Mass. — Lee Police Chief Joseph Buffis was indicted in federal court Thursday on extortion and money laundering charges.
Buffis, 55, of Pittsfield allegedly extorted $4,000 in "donations" from two individuals who were facing charges related to prostitution, according to the U.S. attorney general's office. The donation was made payable to the Edward J. Laliberte Toy Fund, which Buffis had control over, and then withdrawn and deposited into Buffis' bank account.
According to prosecutors, the money was used to pay personal expenses. Buffis also allegedly lied to law enforcement about the funds.
"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 U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz in a statement released on Thursday.
Buffis was indicted on the three counts of money laundering and a single count of extortion. He could face up to 20 years in prison on each count, followed by five years of supervised release and a $250,000 fine. Buffis has not yet appeared in court for a plea.
The toy fund was named for Laliberte, a longtime Lee police officer, who in the 1950s began to provide toys for the town's needy children at Christmastime.
"The allegations contained in the federal indictment describe a serious breach of the public trust, and my office will continue to work with United States Attorney Ortiz and her office to see that justice is done and order restored," Berkshire District Attorney David Capeless said in a statement. "It should be made clear that these accusations are made against one man, Joseph Buffis, not the Lee Police Department or any other members of its force. My office will continue to work proudly alongside the Lee Police Department to ensure safety and justice in the town of Lee and throughout Berkshire County."
The alleged crime was reportedly uncovered by Capeless' office and state police. The case is being tried out of the Springfield federal court.
"This is another example of a successful investigation and extraordinary teamwork between the FBI, the Massachusetts State Police, United States attorney and Berkshire district attorney's offices. The conduct charged in this indictment demonstrates law enforcement’s commitment to pursue public corruption at any level. We will not tolerate these acts, especially from those who have sworn to serve and protect the community and its citizens,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Vincent B. Lisi in a statement.
Police are still seeking the public's assistance in the case. For those who have donated cash or toys to the fund or have applied to the fund are asked to contact the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Springfield agency at 413-732-0159.
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