Boston Mayor’s finance director charged with money laundering in prison drug smuggling scheme

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Freda Brasfield, the Administration and Finance Director in Boston Mayor Michelle Wu’s office, was arraigned Friday on money laundering charges in an alleged prison drug smuggling scheme.

Brasfield, who is also a longtime Boston Democratic political activist and community organizer, appeared in Woburn Superior Court, along with two co-defendants, Jaime Liberty and Jayleen Rivera, both of whom are facing charges of conspiring to smuggle drugs into MCI Shirley.

Brasfield, who is represented by Boston attorney David Meier, entered a plea of not guilty to one charge of money laundering and a charge of conspiracy to commit money laundering.

Brasfield, Liberty, and Rivera were released on personal recognizance.

According to records on file at Woburn Superior Court, a grand jury indicted Freda Brasfield on Dec. 15, 2022.

Prosecutors allege the smuggling scheme stretches back to January 2021 and that it involved a conspiracy to smuggle synthetic cannabinoids known as K2 and Spice into MCI Shirley. Prosecutors say it involved four inmates, including Brasfield’s nephew, and five “non-incarcerated relations or significant others,” including Freda Brasfield.

According to the Commonwealth’s Statement of the Case, Manuel “Junior” Dasilva, a former MCI Shirley inmate, worked with the nine co-defendants to get synthetic drugs inside MCI Shirley.

The use of synthetic drugs is a growing problem inside the Massachusetts prison system.

The Statement of the Case says the drug, when smoked, “can cause psychosis, violent behavior and other problems.”

K2 and Spice are liquid drugs that are sprayed onto papers that are smuggled into the prison, often disguised as letters and legal mail.

According to court documents, the drugs are sprayed onto 8″ x 11″ sheets, which are cut down into one-inch squares and sold in prison for $400 each. One sheet of paper can earn as much as $32,000 behind bars. Defendant Manuel Dasilva allegedly negotiated bulk pricing and quoted prices as low as $250-300 per sheet.

The Commonwealth alleges that the defendants at MCI Shirley are a “coordinated group of individuals who contact co-conspirators to purchase the cannabinoid-laced papers from a single dealer.”

The Commonwealth’s Statement of Facts indicates that five seizures at MCI Shirley that resulted in the confiscation of the drug-laced sheets.

Authorities allege Fred Brasfield used a mobile banking app to move money that was used during a seizure of drug-laced sheets in Boston on Jan. 27, 2022.

The Statement of Facts also says in part, “Several of the targets are involved in mobile banking to receive and distribute the proceeds of the operation, supporting indictments of money laundering and conspiracy...The movement of money…throughout the bulk of the investigation supports charges against Keenan Brasfield and Freda Brasfield.”

A source tells Boston 25 News Fred Brasfield moved money in increments of $999 to avoid banking mandatory reporting limits of $1,000.00.

Freda Brasfield serves as Mayor Michelle Wu’s Administration and Finance Director, earning a salary of more than $120,000 dollars.

Brasfield has been placed on unpaid administrative leave, according to a city of Boston spokesperson.

The city’s statement is as follows:

“The City was made aware of these allegations yesterday evening. Today, the City placed Ms. Brasfield on unpaid administrative leave while the court case proceeds or additional information becomes available.”

Boston 25 News spoke with Greg Henning, a former Suffolk County prosecutor who says it’s possible very few people in the Mayor’s office were unaware of the charges until very recently.

“The simple fact that the indictments were handed down and they were allegedly public in terms of being available to someone who wanted to inquire, it doesn’t mean people knew about it and were discussing it. The Mayor’s office does not have the obligation to sit on the Mass court’s website to check updated criminal case dockets. We don’t know what the mayor’s office knew, but certain Ms. Brasfield would have known she was in serious trouble at least in the middle of December and had the opportunity to notify her employers,” said Henning.

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