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DA: Sham wedding part of the voter fraud scheme

Date: 10/22/2012

By Chris Maza

EAST LONGMEADOW — Former East Longmeadow Selectman Enrico "Jack" Villamaino was arrested on Oct. 16 and a day later denied all charges brought against him in relation to a voter fraud scheme he allegedly masterminded.

Judge Jeffrey Kinder in Hampden County Superior Court ordered Villamaino be held on $10,000 cash bail after delivering strong words on the seriousness of the alleged crimes committed by Villamaino and his co-conspirator Courtney Llewellyn.

"This, as far as I'm concerned, should the allegations be proven, strikes at the very heart of democracy," Kinder said.

In the event of his bail being posted, Villamaino would be confined to his home and tracked electronically, only being allowed to leave to go to work or medical appointments.

Hampden County District Attorney Mark Mastroianni argued for a bail of $100,000, stating that his office believed Villamaino to be a flight risk for several reasons, including the fact that upon his arrest at his place of employment, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority in Boston, he was carrying his passport and a bag filled with personal items. Mastroianni also said that according to witnesses, Villamaino had mentioned fleeing to Switzerland as a possible means of thwarting prosecution.

However, Kinder said that while the case is supported by substantial evidence, as Villamaino's attorney, L. Jeffrey Meehan of the Springfield law firm Doherty, Wallace, Pillsbury & Murphy, argued, Villamaino had no prior record and had not taken the opportunity to flee despite knowing of the possibility of prosecution for some time. He did stipulate that as a condition of bail, Villamaino would have to surrender his passport.

"I understand the judge's rationale. That's why it's an adversarial system," Mastroianni told Reminder Publications following the arraignment.

Villamaino, who allegedly launched an elaborate scheme to win the Republican primary election for state representative of the Second Hampden District against Longmeadow Selectman Marie Angelides, was indicted two weeks ago on nine counts of illegal absentee voting, one count of interfering with election officials, one count of larceny under $250 and one count of attempt to unlawfully vote.

Mastroianni explained that the nine counts of absentee ballot fraud were a "representative sample" of more than 280 attempts to cheat the voting system, something he considered an extremely serious offense.

"The judge was exactly correct when he said that this strikes right at the heart of the democratic process," he said. "It goes beyond the nine counts, or the 280-plus incidents. It affects the entire community of East Longmeadow."

The nine counts of absentee voter fraud and the charge of illegally attempting to vote can carry with them a maximum sentence of five years and a $10,000 fine for each offense. Interference with election officials — in this case, the employees of the East Longmeadow Town Clerk's office, Mastroianni said — carries a one-year house of corrections sentence or $500 fine, while the larceny charge — the theft of absentee ballots — would result in time served.

Llewellyn, a town employee, was also arrested after surrendering herself to authorities, according to East Longmeadow Police Chief Douglas Mellis. Court documents show that she was arraigned that day and pled not guilty to the same 12 counts logged against Villamaino.

She was released on a $50,000 surety.

Among the conditions of her release were reporting in person five time per week and via phone three times per week to the Hampden County Superior Court Probation Department. The native of upstate New York would be allowed to travel to New York State, but only after verification of a schedule provided to the Probation Department.

She was also required to report to the East Longmeadow Police Department at 9:30 a.m. on Oct. 17 for booking. After an hour-long process, Llewellyn left the police station by its back door to avoid being photographed by Reminder Publications. Her attorney, Michael Jennings, had no comment.

Board of Selectman Chair James Driscoll confirmed to Reminder Publications that Llewellyn, who had been on administrative leave with pay, was suspended without pay shortly after her arraignment and indictment were made public.

"Once we had confirmed that she was arraigned, we took the opportunity and suspended her without pay," Driscoll said, explaining that the board felt prior to the indictment that it could not revoke her pay. "Just because someone is under investigation, it doesn't mean anything, especially because we weren't privy to all of the facts. Once we were privy to the facts, we took the necessary steps."

Villamaino, who entered the court in handcuffs with his legs shackled, did not speak at the arraignment, though his attorney argued that he should be released under similar conditions to Llewellyn, citing his client's lack of a criminal record or assets, his ties to the community and his public service as a selectman and a legislative aide for former State Senator and current Hampden County Clerk of Courts Brian Lees.

Mastroianni stated that the difference in bail requests was due largely to the fact that Villamaino had displayed behavior that they believed made him a flight risk while Llewellyn had not and also that Villamaino was the "mastermind" of the scheme, while Llewellyn was a young woman who "was enamored with Mr. Villamaino" and that she "was doing and would do what Mr. Villamaino instructed and wanted her to do."

Mastroianni laid out for Kinder details of an elaborate plot executed by Villamaino and Llewellyn to defraud the voting system in order to defeat Angelides, who had beaten him in the same election two years prior by 284 votes.

"The allegation here, your Honor, is that Mr. Villamaino, along with a co-defendant, Miss Courtney Llewellyn, who was arraigned yesterday, were involved in a voter fraud scheme in order to change people's party affiliations so that they could thereby cast absentee ballots in those person's names without those persons knowing [they] were casting absentee ballots," he said.

Mastroianni pointed out that as a selectman, Villamaino had "regular contact and was a superior" of the Clerk's Office. He added that evidence showed that the two had a friendship dating back to her time as a local reporter, and that he assisted in getting her a position within the Town Clerk's Office.

He elaborated that upon Llewellyn being employed at the Town Clerk's Office, that witnesses stated Villamaino began taking an "unusual interest to have Miss Llewellyn, as a new employee, learn to work some of the computer systems that directly apply to voter enrollment."

"It's a specialized computer system that only one person in the office had been trained on and had been using," Mastroianni said. "Mr. Villamaino sought out training to get her to know how to run that system."

The District Attorney went on to say that on June 15, after the office was closed someone with knowledge of both the computer system and the alarm system in the Town Clerk's Office, entered the premises and altered residents' voter registration status.

"On June 15, someone went into the system and changed 200-plus people's party enrollment. They were changed from Democrats to being unenrolled. The significance of that is if the person is unenrolled, they then could go vote in the Republican primary," he said. "All of those changes were made after hours. They were not made during working hours in the Clerk's Office. For this period, the alarm was disarmed."

Mastroianni then pointed out that Villamaino and Llewellyn had knowledge of the computer system and alarm codes.

He went on to state that an investigation into those changes determined that of the more than 280 names that were changed "remarkably similar to the amount of votes Mr. Villamaino lost by," Mastroianni said less than 20 were legitimate changes. He added that there is evidence that the alarm was shut off after hours and more registrations were changes on other dates, which he did not specify.

On July 20, according to Mastroianni, the Town Clerk's Office received approximately 280 absentee ballot requests — "just about a name-for-name match for all the people who had been unenrolled from the Democratic party," he added — which he alleged Llewellyn carried into the office.

"Miss Llewellyn is the individual in this case who took in those 280 applications. She claimed to her supervisors and coworkers that an unknown white male, [of] medium build, just dropped off 280 applications for absentee ballots," Mastroianni said. "The video [surveillance] shows no one going to the counter dropping off a sizeable amount of documents. The video does show the co-defendant, Miss Llewellyn, walking into the Clerk's Office that morning carrying a bulky side bag. She is seen later in the video handling a good number of documents and going to an office where processing would take place."

Mastroianni continued by stating that witnesses told investigators that on that day, Villamaino was in the Clerk's Office and was expressing an unusual amount of interest in the absentee ballot applications and insisted upon Llewellyn's involvement in the processing of those documents, stating that they had to be mailed that day.

He added that when the employee who usually processes the applications stated that they had to go through a verification process and the ballots would be mailed on the following Monday, Villamaino intervened.

"When the person in the Clerk's Office who was in charge of processing and mailing said she wasn't going to mail them that day, Mr. Villamaino took it upon himself to mail them," he said, outlining how Villamaino took one bin filled with absentee ballots and walked outside, employees presumed, toward the U.S. Mail receptacle outside of Town Hall, then did the same with a second bin with Llewellyn following.

The ballots, however, were never mailed, Mastroianni alleged, stating that mail carriers for that day and the day after stated that they took no bulk mail at that location.

He called that fact a "very sensitive and important part of the investigation" because normally, when an absentee ballot application is received, an absentee ballot is then produced and sent to the citizen who requested it.

"The Commonwealth alleges those were never mailed by Mr. Villamaino and Miss Llewellyn," Mastroianni said. "The Commonwealth alleges that the reason why he reportedly mailed them was so that he could keep and hold onto those absentee ballots and then fill them out fraudulently with those person's names and get them back to cast them as votes."

Mastroianni stated that as the investigation went on, Villamaino discussed the situation with an East Longmeadow police detective, including asking him if he thought if the perpetrator came forward, if punishment would be lighter.

"He did not make an admission, but he had several conversations with that officer about potential penalties [and] how they go about investigating something like this," Mastroianni said.

Villamaino also allegedly attempted to push the suspicion Llewellyn's way when police mentioned her as a possible suspect, Mastroianni said.

After both were notified by the District Attorney's Office that they were being regarded as suspects, the couple were married, something Mastroianni stated was a clear attempt to circumvent prosecution, pointing out that Villamaino maintained a relationship with his girlfriend of six years in Boston.

Mastroianni also stated that witnesses allege that Villamaino researched on the Internet the procedure for getting a divorce and annulment in order to end the marriage as soon as possible after the legal issues had subsided.

"There are witnesses to the marriage process itself who said that Mr. Villamaino articulated that he was doing this because Miss Llewellyn held the key to his jail cell and that she could prevent him from going to jail," he said. "The marriage in all ways, by witnesses' accounts, was conducted in a way that almost flaunted an arrogance of 'We're going to do this and this is going to end this investigation and no one is going to catch us.'"

Mastroianni later said in a meeting with the press that the prosecution does have certain recourse to thwart the co-defendants' attempt.

"There is case law in Massachusetts that indicates that if the Commonwealth is able to prove the marriage was a sham and done for the purpose of frustrating testimonial purposes, we can essentially force that testimony anyway," he said.

In addition to statements made about fleeing to Switzerland, Villamaino said that he was looking into joining "politically connected organizations" that might shelter him from prosecution, Mastroianni added, citing witness statements.

He also mentioned that Villamaino changed the cover photo on his Facebook page to a copy of a poster from the movie "Catch Me If You Can" with his face superimposed over that of Leonardo DiCaprio, who portrayed the lead character, a check forger who evaded federal authorities for years. To that, Meehan replied that his client was a movie enthusiast who often put up photos from motion pictures he enjoyed.

Llewellyn and Villamaino are due back in court for a pretrial hearing on Jan. 10, 2013.

Additional reporting for this story was contributed by G. Michael Dobbs.