EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

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December 23, 2012

Inside the Lantigua grand jury

Transcripts of testimony provide insight into mayor probe

When William Lantigua became mayor in 2010, his new receptionist ordered a trash truck, two ambulances and a school bus be shipped to the Dominican Republic.

At Lantigua campaign fund-raisers, money was collected for event tickets and raffles and the cash was then handed to mayor’s campaign treasurer, Methuen Police Officer Elvin Alarcon.

And when police workers were ordered by Lantigua’s campaign manager Deputy Police Chief Melix Bonilla to illegally swap 13 seized cars for four, they did it because they felt threatened and intimidated — even though they knew what they were doing was unlawful.

These actions and are others are detailed in testimony provided by witnesses to a state grand jury investigating the Lantigua administration on suspicion of corruption, bid rigging, suspicious out of country travel, and campaign finance violations. The hundreds of pages of transcripts include testimony from Auxiliary Police Chief Jay Jackson, Police Chief John Romero, Police Capt. Roy Vasque, and Bonilla, who pleaded the Fifth Amendment eight times during his testimony.

The transcript of the grand jury testimony was submitted as part of a motion to dismiss the charges of corruption, bribery and fraud against Bonilla for his role in the illegal car swap.

No charges have been brought against Lantigua or other members of his current administration, although other Lantigua allies in City Hall have also testified, including his former Chief of Staff Leonard Degnan, Personnel Director Frank Bonet, Elections Coordinator Rafael Tejeda, Lantigua’s paramour

Lorenza Ortega, and the mayor’s right-hand man, Economic Development Director Patrick Blanchette. Their testimony was not part of the transcript filed Friday. The transcript only contains testimony pertinent to Bonilla.

Degnan also has been charged with extorting the city’s former trash hauler, Allied Waste, to donate the trash truck of Lantigua’s hometown of Tenares in the Dominican.

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