EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

October 2, 2013

Tow company boss testifies in cop's corruption trial

Officer P. J. Lopez faces bribery charges

LAWRENCE — Police officer P. J. Lopez bought cars at reduced rates and received a $4,000 snow plow in exchange for increasing police ordered tows to M & W Towing of Lawrence, company owner Wilson Calixto testified yesterday in federal court.

In his first deal with M & W, Lopez wanted a 2008 Suzuki Reno that Calixto was selling for $4,500. Instead, Lopez gave Calixto $1,000 cash and guaranteed him at least 35 extra tows as payment, Calixto testified during the first day of Lopez’s corruption trial.

Calixto, who testified for federal prosecutors under an immunity deal, said he went along with Lopez because he was afraid to get knocked off the police department’s tow list and blackballed in city business.

“I felt if I said, ‘No,’ I’d be shut off ... Whatever he wanted, I agreed on,” said Calixto, who, under the immunity deal, will not face charges unless he lies under oath.

Lopez’s trial opened at U.S. District Court in South Boston with Judge Mark Wolf presiding.

Charged with bribery, lying to a federal agent and obstruction of justice, Lopez was indicted on Sept. 25, 2012 for his dealings with M & W and Calixto. From December 2010 to May 2011, Lopez allegedly ordered an increase in tows to M & W in exchange for the free snow plow and discount prices on abandoned cars stored at M & W. He is accused of lying to federal agents when they questioned him.

“This case is about a police officer who abused his authority and position and then lied about it to the FBI and tried to obstruct justice,” federal prosecutor Andrew Lelling said in his opening argument. Lopez, in exchange for abusing this power, received a stream of benefits, Lelling said.

But Alex Cain of North Andover, Lopez’s defense attorney, said authorities, in their rush to indict Lopez, relied on witnesses who had lied to them and later changed their stories. Also, he accused prosecutors of inaccurately linking the questionable tows to Lopez.

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