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Ex-police chief in Lee faces US charges over $50,000 allegedly taken from gifts for poor kids

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PITTSFIELD, Massachusetts — Lee's former police chief faces new federal charges for allegedly taking more than $50,000 intended for Christmas gifts for underprivileged children.

Twelve indictments were issued by a federal grand jury Thursday charging Joseph Buffis with wire fraud, mail fraud and money laundering. The indictments superseded four earlier charges for extortion by wrongful use of fear and other offenses.

Buffis has pleaded not guilty to those charges.

His lawyer, Lori H. Levinson, didn't return phone calls from The Berkshire Eagle (http://bit.ly/1vYDfep ) seeking comment.

Federal prosecutors say that from January 2007 through December 2011, Buffis diverted more than $51,000 from the Edward J. Laliberte Toy Fund for his personal use, with "a substantial portion" benefiting him and his family.

Authorities say that during that period, only one needy family received money, a $250 check.

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