EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

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October 9, 2013

Cop guilty in towing kickback scheme

BOSTON — Lawrence Police Officer P.J. Lopez walked out of federal court yesterday a guilty man.

A U.S. District Court jury convicted him of bribery and related charges connected to a towing kickback scheme he arranged with M & W Towing of Lawrence and its owner Wilson Calixto.

Lopez, 47, showed no emotion as Judge Mark Wolf’s clerk read the jury’s unanimous guilty verdicts for bribery, obstruction of justice and lying to a federal agent. Members of Lopez’s family, including his children, who were seated in the first row of the courtroom gallery, cried and consoled one another as the verdicts were handed down.

The jury deliberated for three hours.

A police officer in Lawrence for the past 16 years, Lopez remains free until his sentencing on Jan. 14. Judge Wolf said he could go to Salem, N.H., to do errands but otherwise must remain in Massachusetts until sentencing. Lopez has already turned in his expired passport to the federal probation office in Boston. He must now call the probation office on a daily basis and visit the office weekly pending sentencing, Wolf ordered.

Prosecutors expressed concern over Lopez being freed after the verdict as his wife owns a home in the Dominican Republic, of which they said they had photographs.

Lopez faces up to 20 years in prison on the obstruction charge, up to 10 years on the bribery charge and five years maximum for lying to a federal agent. He can also be fined up to $250,000 on each charge, according to information provided by U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz’s office.

Lopez, a political supporter of Mayor William Lantigua, has remained on the city payroll at $60,000 a year since his Sept. 25, 2012 indictment. It was unclear last night if Lantigua would order Lopez taken off the payroll.

It was also unclear if Lopez plans to file an appeal of the convictions. Defense attorney Alex Cain declined comment last night.

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