By Jill Harmacinski
---- — LAWRENCE - Two of Mayor William Lantigua's right-hand men have been indicted today as part of the on-going investigation into Lantigua and his administration.
Deputy Police Chief Melix Bonilla and former Lantigua Chief of Staff Lenny Degnan were both indicted on multiple charges by an Essex County grand jury.
Both men will be arraigned tomorrow in Salem Superior Court. Neither will be arrested, authorities say.
Bonilla, the controversial Lantigua pick for deputy police chief in 2010, was charged with several crimes related to the swapping of 13 city vehicles for four Chevrolets, which the federal government said was a $30,000 losing deal for the city. Bonilla was just ushered out the door of the Lawrence Police Department just moments ago. Police Chief John Romero said Bonilla has been relieved of duty, and his gun, his badge, his work ID, and city vehicle have been taken from him.
"I haven't done anything and you know it," Bonilla said as he exited the police station.
According to the Essex County District Attorney's Office, the charges against Bonilla are as follows: trick, scheme or device to mislead in the procurement of supplies; fraudulent conversion of city property; unlawful use of official position; conspiracy; and extortion or attempted extortion. "These indictments allege that between March 1, 2010 and Sept. 30, 2010, Bonilla, acting in his position as deputy police chief, fraudulently transferred ownership of 13 motor vehicles that belonged to the Lawrence Police Department to an automotive sales agency with a close affiliation to Mayor William Lantigua. Further, he used his position as Deputy Chief of Police to compel another to complete the fraudulent transfer of ownership against his will and in a way that misled the Chief of Police and the people of Lawrence," according to the Essex District Attorney's office.
Degnan, who served as Lantigua's chief of staff from January 2010 to May 2011, was charged with several crimes related to the gift of a city trash truck to Lantigua's native Domincan Republic. Degnan had no immediate comment. These are the charges against Degnan: solicitation of a bribe with corrupt intent; knowing solicitation of a bribe; unlawful use of official position; conspiracy; extortion or attempted extortion. These indictments allege that between Dec. 1, 2009 and March 31, 2010, "Degnan used his position as chief of staff to compel an executive manager of Allied Waste, a trash disposal contractor with the City of Lawrence, to donate a trash truck to a city or town located in the Dominican Republic," according to the Essex County District Attorney's office.
Degnan appeared visibly shaken. He said he was unaware of the charges, just that he knew he had to appear in court tomorrow.
Degnan testified before the Essex County grand jury earlier this year and testified before a separate federal grand jury last year. Only the state grand jury has issued criminal indictments, as of today.
Outside City Hall today, Lantigua said he had no comment on today's developments.
More on this story as it develops.