EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

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August 28, 2013

Suit: Mayor accepted illegal cash, donations


The allegations also add to the political and personal woes already facing the besieged mayor, including allegations of criminal activity and political corruption that state and federal grand juries are considering.

Lantigua and several of his top aides and commissioners were called before the grand juries, including one that indicted Lantigua’s former chief of staff, Leonard Degnan, and his deputy police chief, Melix Bonilla, in September. Degnan is accused of shaking down city contractors.

Bonilla, who managed Lantigua’s 2009 campaign, is accused of swapping 13 city vehicles for four owned by a car dealer connected to Lantigua in a deal that the city’s state-appointed fiscal overseer said cost the city more than $36,000.

Justo Garcia, an attendant in a city garage and Lantigua’s campaign photographer, was charged in June with skimming at least $6,000 in receipts at the garage and doing political work for Lantigua while on the job.

Among the new campaign finance violations that Coakley alleged yesterday:

Between 2008 and 2010, when Lantigua was serving in the Statehouse and running for mayor, he accepted 16 cashier’s checks or money orders worth more than $50 each.

In 2009, Lantigua accepted more than $14,000 in potentially illegal cash contributions; failed to report that Rumbo, a bilingual weekly newspaper, had provided his campaign with four free advertisements worth $2,400; failed to disclose $20,000 in expenses, including $9,000 he spent on ads on Costa Eagle radio, which is partially owned by The Eagle-Tribune; allowed Methuen police officer Elvin Alarcon to act as his campaign finance director and allowed Lorenza Ortega, a City Hall secretary and now Lantigua’s wife, to serve as his treasurer.

In 2010, he received $4,863 in catering services from Chester’s, a catering hall at 60 Island St., that he either failed to disclose or accepted for free.

Loh declined to discuss the specifics of the investigation. But a spokesman for Costa Eagle Radio said Coakley subpoenaed the station to obtain information about the advertisements Lantigua paid for but allegedly never reported.

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