SPRINGFIELD, Mass., - A 30-year veteran of the Lee Police Department appeared in federal court Wednesday to answer to new extortion and fraud charges.
Joseph Buffis pleaded not guilty to a 12 count indictment on Wednesday morning.
According to court documents, Buffis stole more than $50,000 from a fund that was intended to give needy children Christmas gifts. The documents reveal the money came from donations and Buffis had sole control over the cash.
Prosecutors say they could only find record of a single check that went to one needy family.
In the wake of the allegations, Buffis was fired.
On Wednesday, the police chief that replaced Buffis, had little to say.
“It's the U.S. Attorneys down there is taking care of it and the FBI is doing the investigation, open case. So we have no comment at this point. It's a process,” said Police Chief Jeffrey Roosa
He also said that all residents of Lee are aware of the situation but there is no lack of trust with the police department.
The most serious charge of extortion stems from an arrangement Buffis allegedly made with two Lee innkeepers. Buffis is accused of threatening to charge them with running a prostitution ring if they didn't donate $4,000 to his toy fund. Prosecutors say he pocketed that money.
Authorities say Buffis used the stolen cash to pay off his own credit card debts.
Buffis is scheduled to appear in federal court again on September 30.