All signs pointed to the guilt of Michael Ferragamo last year.
The former Department of Public Works (DPW) employee had been caught on video stealing some $20,000 worth of blank metal signs from the DPW sign shop and then selling them at a scrap yard in Everett for cash.
He even admitted to the crime, which consisted of at least three felony charges and three lesser larceny charges.
However, once in Chelsea District Court, Ferragamo, 47, of McKinley Street, wasn’t fully prosecuted and his case was continued without a finding – meaning that if he doesn’t break the law between now and next December, the charges will be dropped. He will have suffered no criminal consequences except that of paying restitution to the city.
Many believe that the situation was a little too snug and Ferragamo might have gotten away with one. Meanwhile, Ferragamo’s attorney and state prosecutors steadfastly say that he was treated as anyone else with a clean record would be treated, and that he has been ordered to pay quite a bit in restitution.
This week, the city will be meeting to once again work out that restitution agreement, which will be finalized probably in May.
The situation – in the mind of some around here plugged into the city’s political history – becomes a bit more hairy in that Ferragamo is the son of the city’s former building inspector, and also was represented by Attorney Stephen Reardon – a current city councillor and also the police chief’s brother.
“There’s a risk in putting any case before a jury,” said Jake Wark, a spokesman for District Attorney Dan Conley’s office. “When you can obtain the same result – accountability and restitution – through a plea or admission, it’s always wise to do so. With regard to other cases of breaking and entering, we take each on its own merits, but I can’t recall another defendant with no criminal record who served jail time for a first offense of this sort in which no one was injured. To be honest, that his father was once a building inspector carries absolutely no weight with us, nor does the name of his attorney.”
Attorney Reardon said the same, noting that there was no favoritism and that his client had a squeaky clean record before this incident. For disclosure purposes, Reardon noted that he took the case well before being elected to the City Council, and that it was mostly disposed of before he was sworn in.
“He didn’t get away with this,” said Reardon. “What he got was a reasonable punishment. It’s not like he’s walking away from this. He is financially responsible and he’s lost his employment with the city. This is a heavy, heavy issue. He certainly lost his good name in the community…It’s not that unusual for a first-time offender of his age who has never even seen the inside of a police station until now to get this kind of a disposition – one in which some people seem to be considering a break.
“I don’t think anybody else in Michael Ferragamo’s position would have been treated differently in any other city or town,” continued Reardon. “He’s lost quite a bit.”
Mayor Tom Ambrosino said that Ferragamo resigned last year and is no longer a city employee, and so all the city cares about at this point is getting its money back.
He said they are still in restitution negotiations, but they are requesting more than $20,000 from Ferragamo.
“All the city cares about is getting its money,” he said. “He is no longer an employee of the city. The criminal justice system is not something that’s under my control.”
The mayor would not comment on whether or not he is disappointed that the criminal charges for stealing from the city might be dismissed. He said he had no opinion.
Reardon said that his client’s supposed political connections, or even his own stature in the city, had no bearing on the outcome.
“In fact, I was asking if we could put him on a suspension – a long-term one – and he could keep his job,” said Reardon. “The mayor was absolutely adamant he lose his job. I advised against that. I think if you were looking at a political connection, he would still be working. Or maybe it would be swept under the rug, which it clearly was not. It was a huge deal and it was all above the table. No one tried to protect Mr. Ferragamo.”
Last June, Revere Police arrested Ferragamo under quite a bit of fanfare.
He was charged with several felonies and was alleged to have stolen more than 1,000 signs from the DPW City Yard – breaking into the Sign Shop on several occasions and even trying to obscure the view of a security camera. Once he had stolen the signs, police said he drove to an Everett scrap yard in his DPW work truck and sold the signs for cash.
At the time, police said they broke the case because of video evidence and a GPS tracking system that had been installed on Ferragamo’s DPW work truck. That system tracked his movements to Everett and back.
Additionally, Ferragamo admitted to Revere detectives that he had committed the crime.
He even admitted to the crime in Chelsea District Court, but prosecutors said that – given his record and agreement to repay the city – the criminal charges weren’t pursued any further.
He was placed on one year’s supervised probation.
He was not convicted of the charges and they won’t appear on his record as long as he stays out of trouble until December 17, 2010. If all goes well, all charges will be dismissed, and all will be forgotten.