PLAINVILLE – A federal grand jury is investigating possible crimes related to opposition of a proposed asphalt plant in Plainville, and federal agents are probing the involvement of a rival firm.
Two witnesses interviewed by investigators said they were asked if rival Aggregate Industries of Wrentham had paid them for their opposition to the proposed Plainville Materials Corp. plant.
As part of the investigation, the grand jury has subpoenaed The Sun Chronicle for documents pertaining to an advertisement that ran in the newspaper promoting an informational meeting about the Plainville plant proposal.
The advertisement appeared in the newspaper on Jan. 17. It invited residents to hear about the potential health dangers of the asphalt plant.
The ad was paid for by the Boston law firm of Mintz Levin Cohn Ferris Glousky and Popeo. Nancy Sterling, a spokeswoman for Mintz Levin, said her firm has done work for Aggregate Industries, but at the informational meeting it was representing Charles Mclaughlin, an opponent of the Plainville plant.
The lawfirm no longer represents McLaughlin, she said.
She said she could not comment further because the case in under investigation.
Mclaughlin worked at Aggregate Industries’s asphalt plant in Wrentham. He filed a challenge to a permit for the Plainville project, but later withdrew it, citing “personal reasons.”
Alan Paperny, general counsel for Aggregate, said he was aware of the grand jury investigation, but does not have enough information to comment.
Aggregate is a large, international building materials firm operating in Britian and the United States, including the Wrentham plant. Two of its officials were recently found guilty of fraud relating to concrete the firm supplied the Big Dig project in Boston.
Mary-Ann Greanier, a Plainville resident who has been fighting the plant proposed in Plainville by local developer Gerry Lorusso, said she was interviewed by a federal agent investigating the case.
She said the agent from the federal Department of Transportation asked her several times if Aggregate was paying her to oppose the rival plant in Plainville.
Greanier, a political activist, said anyone familiar with her knows she doesn’t need to be paid to get involved in local issues.
She said she opposes the Plainville Materials Corp. plant because it is bad for the town and she believes the building inspector was wrong to issue it a building permit. The federal agent, she said, was also interested in who organized the public meeting advertised in The Sun Chronicle and why she created a website about the issue.
Greanier said the agent also made reference to Aggregate’s past trouble in the Big Dig case.
Another person who was interviewed by federal agents was Richard Mirabile of Dedham.
He said he was recently questioned about the Plainville case, and that he also got a visit from agents two years ago when he opposed a Lorusso asphalt plant in Norwood.
In both cases, he said, agents from the Department of Transportation wanted to know if he was being paid by Aggregate.
Mirabile said he was asked to speak at the January informational meeting by attorneys from Mintz Levin. In the Norwood case, Mirabile said he got involved on his own because he considers himself an environmentalist.
In both cases, he said, he wasn’t paid for his role.
Mirabile and Greanier said they were told they were not targets of the investigation, but Greanier said she feared she was being encouraged to stay out of the opposition to the Plainville plant.
“I don’t know what their purpose was, but I know it was chilling to me,” she said of the interview.
The subpeona of The Sun Chronicle demands the paper turn over “Any and all documents regarding placement, design, and payment for the attached advertisement that ran on page B2 in the City and Town section of the Sunday Chronicle on Sunday, January 17, 2010.”
A cover letter from U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz said the information is demanded “Pursuant to an official investigation being conducted by a federal grand jury in the District of Massachusetts of suspected violations of federal criminal law …”
The documents are due at U.S. District Court in Worcester on June 17.
Oreste D’Arconte, publisher of The Sun Chronicle, said the newspaper would comply with the subpeona.
A spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office declined comment. Lorusso Corp. did not return a telephone call requesting comment.