EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

May 13, 2013

Arrest doesn't stop city pension

But disability payments would stop during jail time, he says

By Mike LaBella
mlabella@eagletribune.com

---- — HAVERHILL — A lawyer for Haverhill said a city employee who retired on a disability pension and was recently charged with drug crimes is at no risk of losing his monthly benefits because of it.

But, the lawyer said, if the former employee is convicted and sent to jail, his payments will be suspended while he is behind bars.

Daniel Spero, 46, worked less than two years for the city’s Highway and Parks Department before going out on a disability retirement based on a “work related orthopedic injury,” city retirement officials said.

Last month, police arrested Spero and his cousin David Burns, 43, both of 44 Taylor St., and charged them with possession with intent to distribute Class B Oxycodone, possession with intent to manufacture Class B, and possession with intent to distribute Class E steroids. Burns was also charged with possession with intent to distribute Class B cocaine.

According to the Haverhill Retirement Board, Spero worked for the city from Oct. 26, 1996, until Nov. 14, 1997, when he was injured. He was a motor equipment operator and was paid $11.11 per hour, according to the Retirement Board.

Attorney Michael Sacco of Westfield, who represents the Retirement Board, said Spero was injured on the job during a winter storm and “during operation of a plow.”

Sacco said that regardless of the outcome of Spero’s pending court case, it would have no effect on his disability payments.

“Losing his benefit would not apply unless (he was) committing a crime as an employee and subsequently convicted,” Sacco said.

However, Sacco said that according to state law, if a person receiving benefits is convicted of a felony and imprisoned, the benefits would be suspended during the period of incarceration.

“Then (after the incarceration) payments would resume,” Sacco said.

Spero has been on disability retirement from the city since Aug. 17, 1998, and receives $2,089 in monthly disability benefits, the board said.

According to a police report, on April 25 about 10 a.m., the Haverhill police narcotics unit and members of the DEA Cross Borders Initiative task force executed a search warrant at 44 Taylor St. Detectives set up surveillance and shortly afterward saw Daniel Spero drive off in a car. Haverhill detectives, with help from a state police trooper, stopped the car and arrested Spero on an outstanding warrant for distribution of Class B narcotics. A search of Spero turned up $460 cash and 11 blue Percoset pills, police said.

According to a police report, detectives went to a rear door of 44 Taylor St. and were let in by Burns, who told them he lives there with Spero. Officers searched Burns and found a prescription pill bottle containing 26 30-mg Percoset pills, a cell phone and a large amount of cash in his pants pocket, police said.

Detectives said they found several small bags of what they believed was cocaine in Burns’ sleeping area. A safe in the second-floor master bedroom contained several vials with pills inside them, while a small refrigerator contained a variety of steroids, police said.

Police said multiple, unfilled paper prescriptions were attached to a cork board in the kitchen. A search of the basement turned up a variety of drugs, including steroid vials and a pill press, police said. Police also found an assortment of brown and pink pills, which they said appeared to be homemade and matched the color of residue found on the pill press. Police said the pills tested positive for methamphetamines. Five small bags of cocaine were found hidden behind a ceiling panel in the basement, police said. Police said they seized $3,940 in total.

At their arraignments on the charges in Haverhill District Court, both Spero and Burns were released on personal recognizance. Police booking reports listed Spero as “disabled” and David Burns as “self employed.”

Officials in the clerk’s office at Haverhill District Court said the men’s cases will be moved to Newburyport District Court because of their relationship with local police. They said Spero is a brother of Haverhill police officer John Spero, who appears in Haverhill District Court as part of his job. They said Burns is Officer Spero’s cousin.