By JILL HARMACINSKI
---- — LAWRENCE — Investigators today said parking garage attendant Justo Garcia deposited cash from the city-owned Museum Square garage into the campaign account of Mayor William Lantigua.
The bombshell came in a State Police affidavit filed during Garcia's arraignment at Lawrence District Court on larceny charges this afternoon.
Garcia was arrested as he walked toward a side entrance to City Hall on Appleton Way about 12:40 p.m. by men in plainclothes, who called him to the front of the building on Common Street. After a discussion that lasted only a minute or two, Garcia was put in handcuffs, placed in a Lawrence police car and driven away, according to a witness.
According to the affidavit, on or about April 6 of this year, investigators "initiated a surveillance of Garcia."
They watched as he drove his Dodge Durango from his home on Pleasant Terrace in Lawrence to the Museum Square Garage.
They said he went into the garage and came out a short time later and drove to the Bank of America at 64 Winthrop Ave.
"Investigators subsequently learned that Garcia entered the Bank of America, proceeded to a teller window and made two separate deposits into the William Lantigua Election Account," the affidavit said.
The affidavit was filed by State Police Detective Sgt. Barry Brodette.
Carrie Kimball Monahan, spokeswoman for District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett, said the arrest was made by state police, FBI and Lawrence police.
Garcia was taken to Lawrence District Court about 1:45 p.m. in a Lawrence police cruiser.
She said Garcia faced a charge of larceny over $250 and other larcenies.
Garcia was released on personal recognizance. He was ordered to surrender his passport, report to probation on a weekly basis and to reveal any aliases he may use.
Lantigua is in Florida today for his father's funeral.
Lantigua's lawyer, Jeffrey Denner, said he has not yet spoken to Lantigua about Garcia's arrest. But he rejected the suggestion that Lantigua was aware that any money allegedly stolen from the city ended up in his campaign account, especially given the spotlight that earlier indictments have placed on his administration.
"It would be somewhat ridiculous to think that even if someone were interested in wrongdoing, which Mayor Lantigua is not, that with all the attention that's been focused on him over the past months and year, and the different grand juries that were investigating individuals in his administration, that he or anyone would embark on a scheme to directly take money from municipal parking garages to put directly into campaign funds," Denner said. "Certainly if that happened, I can tell you without reservation that Mayor Lantigua had nothing to do with that."
The City Council this week called for what will be at least a third investigation into the alleged disappearance of tens of thousands of dollars in city parking collections from the the Museum Square garage.
Garcia has been questioned by the FBI in connection with the sudden drop in revenues after Mayor William Lantigua hired and then promoted him at the garage in 2010, then allegedly converted the garage to a cash-only operation. Garcia served as the photographer for Lantigua’s political committee and is one of the mayor’s campaign foot soldiers. Garcia has denied any criminal wrongdoing.