EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

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October 19, 2012

Indicted officer's passport seized

BOSTON — Indicted Lawrence police officer P.J. Lopez has been ordered to surrender his passport, firearm and firearm license.

Lopez, 46, was released on a $25,000 bond after his arraignment in federal court on bribery and other charges Wednesday. He is not allowed to leave the continental United States while his federal case is pending, according to court records.

In a statement, Lopez’s attorney, Alex Cain of Andover, noted the police officer entered “not guilty” pleas to charges of bribery, making a false statement to a federal agent and obstruction of justice in connection with his dealings with an unnamed towing company in Lawrence.

Lopez, a Lawrence police officer since December 1997, is accused of making arrangements with the Lawrence tow company to have cars he ticketed towed in exchange for a “stream of benefits,” including a $4,000 plow, according to court papers.

Prosecutors allege Lopez lied to a federal agent, saying he reimbursed the company in cash for the plow and produced a bogus receipt for it, according to the indictment.

He was indicted through a joint investigation involving Lawrence police, the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

If convicted, Lopez faces up to 20 years in federal prison for the obstruction of justice charge, 10 years for bribery and five years on the false statement charge. There is also the potential for up to three years of supervised release and a fine of up to $250,000.

Lopez was indicted on Sept. 25.

Earning roughly $62,000 annually, he remains on the city payroll. Mayor William Lantigua, the appointing authority of police officers, has refused to stop paying Lopez and another high ranking police official who was indicted on state charges. Both Lopez and Deputy Police Chief Melix Bonilla, who was indicted on bribery, extortion and conspiracy charges indicted by the Essex Country Grand Jury, are political supporters of Lantigua.

Follow staff reporter Jill Harmacinski on Twitter under the screenname EagleTribJill.

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