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Ex-Lee police chief faces trial on extortion, money laundering charges in January

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SPRINGFIELD, Massachusetts — Lee's former police chief faces trial in January on charges that he stole more than $50,000 from a charity that buys Christmas gifts for underprivileged children.

Ex-Chief Joseph Buffis is scheduled for trial on charges including extortion, mail fraud and money laundering in U.S. District Court in Springfield starting Jan. 26. He pleaded not guilty and is free on $100,000 bond.

Prosecutors say from January 2007 through December 2011, Buffis diverted money from the Edward J. Laliberte Toy Fund for his personal use, with "a substantial portion" benefiting him and his family.

Authorities also say Buffis coerced Lee innkeepers facing prostitution-related charges into donating $4,000 to the fund, and then kept the money.

The town fired the 56-year-old Buffis.

His lawyer says he's glad to finally have his day in court.

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