SALEM, Mass. — Lawrence parking garage worker Justo Garcia was formally arraigned in Salem Superior Court yesterday for allegedly stealing from the city and doing campaign work on city time.
Garcia, 60, was indicted on larceny and related charges for allegedly stealing an unspecified amount of money from the city-owned Museum Square parking garage where he worked and submitting fraudulent receipts for money he allegedly accepted for monthly parking passes. Garcia was additionally charged with faking his time card to say he was working when he was actually campaigning for Mayor William Lantigua.
No bail was set yesterday during his arraignment before Judge David Lowy. Garcia is scheduled to return to Superior Court on Dec. 5.
Defense attorney Sal Tabit declined comment following the arraignment.
Garcia was initially arraigned in Lawrence District Court on June 6. Now, because of the indictments, he faces more severe penalties if convicted at the Superior Court level.
Garcia is no longer working in the parking garages but remains on the city payroll as a public works employee.
He was arrested after a local, state and FBI investigation that involved undercover agents, marked bills, a hidden camera in the parking garage office, around-the-clock surveillance and even a GPS installation.
Lawrence Mayor Lantigua and city Finance Director Mark Iannello testified before the grand jury investigating Garcia and the parking lot theft.
On Jan. 11, 2013, Iannello, city attorney Charles Boddy and John Isensee, the city’s public works director, met with FBI agents to discuss a rapid drop in parking lot revenues. Five months later, after the investigation involving surveillance and undercover agents buying parking passes, Garcia was arrested and charged.
On May 29, Lantigua was called to testify before the grand jury. However, flanked by Boston defense attorney Jeffrey Denner, Lantigua was in the courthouse only briefly. When he emerged to a throng of waiting media, his only comment was, “I love you all.”
For more than two years, Lantigua and his administration have been the target of a state and federal investigation.
Mayor since January 2010, Lantigua has not been charged and has repeatedly said he has not committed any crimes. In the September primary for re-election, Lantigua earned 48 percent of the vote. His challenger, Dan Rivera, earned 23 percent.
Lantigua and Rivera face off in general election on Nov. 5.
Follow staff reporter Jill Harmacinski on Twitter @EagleTribJill.