EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

May 2, 2013

Laboy looks forward to 'moving on' after paying back $10K to LPS

Ordered to repay $10K to Lawrence schools

By Jill Harmacinski and Mark E. Vogler
Staff Writers

---- — METHUEN — A “for sale” signs sets at the driveway entrance to ex-Lawrence School Superintendent Wilfredo T. Laboy’s Colonial style Howe Street home.

Yesterday, the 62-year-old educator who presided over Lawrence Public Schools for nearly a decade before a scandal ruined a once-brilliant career and led to a jail sentence, said he looks forward to future plans, which include finding a new home and “moving on” with his life.

“I’ve lost 40 pounds, I’ve lost my beard and I’m feeling pretty good,” Laboy told a reporter he welcomed into his house. With his “house arrest” ending later this month, he said he will have a chance to explore various options.

But on the advice of his attorney, Scott Gleason of Haverhill, wouldn’t say any more about his future plans or the disposition of his criminal case.

Superior Court Judge Robert Cornetta yesterday ordered Laboy to pay $10,000 to the Lawrence School Department, restitution to the school district he was convicted of defrauding and embezzling from last year. The restitution was based on an agreement reached between the District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett’s office and Gleason.

The amount of restitution was “determined through a review of trial testimony and evidence presented at trial,” according to statement released by Blodgett’s office yesterday afternoon.

“It’s paid in full,” Gleason said in a telephone interview last night.

“Dr. Laboy and the District Attorney’s Office and the school worked toward achieving a number that fairly reflects the restitution to the city. An agreement was reached by all parties and Dr. Laboy was brought in before the judge today (yesterday). The judge OKed it and Dr. Laboy handed him a check,” he said.

Gleason declined to discuss Laboy’s future plans.

“That’s his private life,” he said.

Gleason hailed his client as “a remarkable man” who “looks good, feels good and is moving forward with his life.”

A Superior Court jury convicted Laboy about 13 months ago of five counts of fraud and embezzlement. Part of his sentence called for him to pay restitution. The jury determined Laboy used public school resources for his personal gain — school employees ran his personal errands and also had pizza menus and other items for his son’s business printed in the school department.

In March 2012, Superior Court Judge Richard Welch sentenced him to two years in jail, with 90 days to be served. But Laboy only served 60 days at the Correctional Alternative Center in Lawrence, also known as “the Farm,” after he was released 30 days early for good behavior.

Laboy was also sentenced to three years of probation, including one year of house arrest, and 600 hours of community service.

The Lawrence School Committee voted to fire Laboy in April 2010 after he was indicted on eight counts of fraud and embezzlement, including charges that he used School Department employees and resources for his personal gain.

For much of his first eight years on the job, Laboy was one of the most respected school superintendents in the state — and he got paid like it, with annual raises boosting his salary to more than $200,000 by the summer of 2008.

That was his reward for being the leader who presided over a period of major accomplishments on the city’s public education front: Lawrence High School regaining its accreditation, and the opening of a new $110-million, state-of-the art high school campus that features six smaller schools, each focusing on a different field of study.

Three other others charged, to date, in the Laboy scandal were sentenced to probation.

In October 2011, Israel Reyes, a failed city mayoral candidate, pleaded guilty to two counts of larceny of property over $250 for also abusing the school department’s printing press. He was sentenced to one year probation and ordered to stay away from the Lawrence Public Schools.

Mark Rivera, Laboy’s former special assistant in the school department and a star witness at Laboy’s trial, pleaded guilty to three misdemeanor counts of larceny of property valued under $250.

Rivera admitted to using the school department’s $500,000 printing press to make up free political literature for local and state candidates.

Rivera was sentenced to one year probation and ordered to stay away from the Lawrence Public Schools.

Also, in late January, Laboy’s son, Wilfredo Laboy II, pleaded guilty to perjury and was sentenced to one year probation. Laboy II, the owner of a Sal’s pizza franchise in Methuen, admitted he lied to the Essex County Grand Jury in September 2009 about having his pizza shop menus designed and printed with Lawrence school resources. He also admitted he lied about getting rides to work on a daily basis from school department employees.

Laboy II lost his license for two years after his second drunken driving conviction, triggering the need for rides to and from Sal’s Pizza shops he was working at in Lawrence and North Andover.

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