BOSTON -- The Somerville Retirement Board had the right to deny a $38,700 annual pension to former Middlesex Register of Probate John Buonomo, who was convicted in 2009 of multiple counts of larceny.

In its decision issued Wednesday, the state Supreme Judicial Court wrote there is no requirement in the law that the public office involved in the conviction be the same as the public office from which the person is receiving retirement benefits.

"Forfeiture of a retirement allowance ... is mandatory and occurs by operation of law," the SJC wrote.

In October 2009, Buonomo, then 58, of Newton, pleaded guilty to 12 counts of breaking and entering into a depository with intent to commit larceny, eight counts of theft of public property by a county officer, and eight counts of larceny under $250 for the theft from the copy and cash machines in the probate office after he stole an estimated $30,000.

Buonomo's crimes were all caught on camera. He was videotaped by state police going to the copy machine inside the Middlesex Registry of Deeds Office, which was next door to his office, and stealing the cash inside the machine.

He also pleaded guilty to two counts of larceny over $250, two counts of personal use of campaign funds and willfully misleading investigators after stealing $102,792 in campaign donations.

Buonomo was sentenced to 18 to 30 months in Billerica House of Correction and must repay the $102,000 in campaign contributions he stole.

With Buonomo's conviction, the Somerville Retirement Board on Jan. 22, 2010, voted to revoke Buonomo's public-pension retirement.


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Six months later, then-Lowell District Court Judge James McGuinness ruled against the Somerville Retirement Board, ordering it to pay Buonomo's pension of $3,228 per month, or $38,700 annually, for the Somerville positions.

A superior court judge upheld the decision.

The Somerville Retirement Board appealed.

Buonomo, through his attorney, argued before the SJC that the Somerville Retirement Board was incorrect in withholding Buonomo's pension that he earned while serving in several public positions in Somerville because his conviction was while he was register of probate.

The retirement board argued the statute requires the offense merely involve the funds or property of "any government unit by which he is employed or was employed at the time of retirement or termination," the board states.

The SJC agreed, reversed the lower court decision and sent the case back to District Court.

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