Postal inspector sentenced to prison for perjury and obstruction of justice

BOSTON – May 3 – A former United States Postal Inspection Service inspector was sentenced today in federal court for perjury and obstruction of justice.

Joseph M. McGonagle, III, 38, was sentenced by U.S. District Nathaniel M. Gorton to one year and one day in prison, to be followed by two years of supervised release and a $4,000 fine. On Jan. 26, 2012, McGonagle, of Danvers, pleaded guilty to perjury and obstruction of justice.

During a May 19, 2010 court hearing held in U.S. District Court in Boston, McGonagle falsely testified under oath. At the time the offenses were committed, McGonagle was a U.S. Postal Inspection Service inspector who was assigned to the prosecution team in United States v. Eric L. Levine, et al., a federal criminal case which was prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office from April 5 to June 2, 2010, before Judge George A. O’Toole, Jr. Melanie “Maria” Abbruzzese was a paralegal employed at Denner Pelligrino and was part of defendant Eric Levine’s defense team.

On the evening of May 18, 2010, during the Levine trial, Levine’s lead defense counsel learned that Abbruzzese had a phone conversation earlier that evening with McGonagle. Defense counsel learned that during that conversation McGonagle told Abbruzzese that the an Assistant United States Attorney prosecuting the Levine case had just sent an email to his staff indicating the witnesses the defense would be calling and that defendant Levine might testify. The following morning, defense counsel alerted the government and the Court of the conversation between Abbruzzese and McGonagle.

At a hearing to determine whether there was any breach of confidentiality, held by Judge O’Toole, both McGonagle and Abbruzzese testified under oath. McGonagle was questioned about his phone call the prior evening with Abbruzzese, and more broadly, about his other interactions with her, including contact by email, phone or in person. McGonagle testified that he had no social or personal meetings with Abbruzzese, that his email contacts with her were limited and all of a professional nature, and that “it had been quite some time” since he last spoke to Abbruzzese and that there weren’t any calls during the Levine trial.

Contrary to his testimony, McGonagle had numerous social and personal meetings with Abbruzzese during the Levine trial, including drinks on three occasions all within 10 days preceding his May 19 testimony. Further, on the evening of May 13, following their visit to a Boston bar, McGonagle and Abbruzzese were observed by a co-worker in his car while parked in front of Denner Pelligrino’s office. In addition, documentary evidence, including cell tower information, revealed that Abbruzzese had overnight visits at McGonagle’s Danvers’ apartment the evenings of May 14 and May 16.

Furthermore, contrary to McGonagle’s testimony that there were limited and professional emails, there were actually 41 emails between the two work email accounts between March 29 and May 18, 2010. The first three of those emails related to official business. The remaining 38 emails, dated April 12 through May 18, 2010, were all of a personal nature. Finally, although McGonagle testified that he recalled no calls during the Levine trial, cell phone records showed approximately 40 calls between the two between May 5 and May 19, 2010.

McGonagle’s false testimony concerned a matter material to the court’s inquiry in that his false statements hindered Judge O’Toole’s inquiry into the nature of their relationship. McGonagle’s false testimony was intended to, and did, conceal the existence of his ongoing relationship with Abbruzzese and thus deprived the court of a fulsome inquiry into whether anything inappropriate, in terms of confidentiality, was passed from one party to the other.

United States Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz and Curtis Lembke, Area Special Agent in Charge, Special Inquiries Division, U.S. Postal Service, Office of Inspector General made the announcement today. The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Diane C. Freniere of Ortiz’s Public Corruption and Special Prosecutions Unit.