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Ex-Lee police chief, charged with stealing from holiday toy fund, to face 2 separate trials

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SPRINGFIELD, Massachusetts — A federal judge has ruled that a former western Massachusetts police chief charged with stealing more than $100,000 from a holiday toy fund and cheating the town into paying for his family's cellphone service will face two separate trials.

The judge ruled Tuesday that evidence in the cases involving ex-Lee Chief Joseph Buffis is substantially different, warranting separate trials.

Federal prosecutors allege that from January 1999 through December 2012, Buffis, while buried in "extreme debt," diverted $120,000 from the Edward J. Laliberte Toy Fund for purchases at stores and a restaurant, and to pay credit card bills and loans.

Buffis also allegedly added three phones to the town's plan for his wife and two children, saying they were for police use.

His lawyer says her client denies the charges.

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