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The Pioneer Families of Springfield
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...

Clan Aranjo

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 credit unions.

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 Asselin, managed.

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 church with."

W. R. Burnett, High Sierra, 1940

"When government hands you a culture of corruption, make a culture of corruption-aid"

Matt Barr, Socratic Rhythm Method,

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 Massachusetts, 11/01/05

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,", Investigative Reports, 03/31/03

"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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Copyright (c) 2006 by Carola Von Hoffmannstahl-Solomonoff. This material may be freely distributed subject to the terms and conditions set forth in the Open Publication License. This license relieves the author of any liability or implication of warranty, grants others permission to use the Content in whole or in part, and insures that the original author will be properly credited when Content is used. It also grants others permission to modify and redistribute the Content if they clearly mark what changes have been made, when they were made, and who made them. Finally, the license insures that if someone else bases a work on this Content, that the resultant work will be made available under the Open Publication License as well.

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