LAWRENCE — Celebrities, politicians and pro athletes are among the 400 people who had their backgrounds checked on school computers by Superintendent Wilfredo Laboy's right-hand man and a private investigator hired by the School Department, police said.
Police released a 57-page list yesterday, hoping to alert those named to the questionable background checks by Mark Rivera, Laboy's ex-special assistant, and Harry Maldonado, a former police officer turned private investigator hired by the School Department.
The names were checked between January 2007 and March 2009 using the schools' Lexis Nexis software and include Red Sox slugger David Ortiz, actors Michael Chiklis and Hugh Laurie, Gov. Deval Patrick and several city politicians.
Police said they believe everything from driver's license information and weapons possession to tax, criminal and financial data were possibly accessed through the system. A complete list of those named is available at www.eagletribune.com.
The list also includes numerous checks on addresses, including homes in Las Vegas, Florida, and New Bedford, as well as checks on cellular phone numbers and land lines, and death records. Records also show Social Security numbers were entered for background checks.
"Clearly, there are some disturbing issues here," said police Chief John Romero, who was queried by Rivera on Feb. 4, 2009.
"Given the names of people on the list, I am not surprised my name is there," Romero said.
Romero advised everyone named to scrutinize their personal bills for suspicious purchases and obtain a fresh credit report. Anything questionable should be reported to Lawrence detectives immediately, he said.
The list shows dozens of checks using Maldonado's user ID, but he denies he ever used the system for anything but work purposes. He said he will take a lie detector test to prove it. Names checked using his ID include Rivera, several members of Rivera's family, Laboy, City Council President Patrick Blanchette and mayoral candidate Israel Reyes.
He questioned whether the School Department records, turned over to police yesterday morning, were authentic.
"(The School Department) can play whatever games they want with me ... I have nothing to hide," Maldonado said.
Hired at the start of the school year to handle safety issues, Maldonado said the School Department removed him from Lexis Nexis approximately two months ago. Laboy said last week Maldonado no longer has a contract with the School Department.
Effective yesterday, Rivera resigned from his job as Laboy's special assistant. He could not be reached for comment for this story.
Police yesterday were talking with District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett's office about the possibility of filing criminal charges. Detectives also were talking with Lexis Nexis, the software provider, to determine the depth of information accessed with the system. They also hope to cross-check the School Department records with company records.
"We need to interpret the information and determine what course of action to take next," Romero said.
Others queried include New York Yankee Johnny Damon, boxer Evander Holyfield, local restaurateur and mill developer Sal Lupoli, Mayor Michael Sullivan, and state Rep. Barry Finegold, D-Andover.
Local newspaper reporters were queried, along with Mark Andrews, the city's budget and finance director, City Councilor Grisel Silva and her estranged husband, Nelson Silva, who also is a school safety officer, Frank Incropera, president of the Mount Vernon Neighborhood Association, and Michael Miller, the Lawrence airport director.
Myles Burke, the city's director of inspectional services, said "dirty politics" are at the heart of this issue.
"It appears they were trying to develop a blackmail list," said Burke, who also was checked. "Isn't there better things to do with their time and tax dollars?"
Rivera's user ID was used to check Jeff Malenfant, a Lawrence police officer who issued Rivera a citation after he drove a School Department vehicle through a fire scene in December 2007 with Laboy in the passenger seat.
Former School Committee member James Stokes, convicted on federal charges of impersonating a veteran, also was checked by Rivera's user ID in 2007 and 2008.
Sgt. Joseph Beaulieu also was the focus of one of the checks. The lifelong city resident and father of two yesterday questioned why.
He and his wife, Tara, dealt with the School Department for nine months as they tried to gain access to appropriate therapy and education for their autistic son.
"There was no reason to run me," he said. "Was there nothing better to do?"
Beaulieu now worries if his Social Security and credit card numbers are compromised.
"They had access to everything I've done in my life," Beaulieu said.
But Laboy said he believes the data was only accessed, not distributed. He said he has "no awareness" any information was "circulated."
While he's taken responsibility for the background checks, Laboy has said he had no idea they were occurring.
Blanchette, the focus of numerous background checks, urged "everyone on the list to do their personal due diligence."
"Get the credit reports and look at personal information to make sure nothing was tampered with," Blanchette said.
He suspects more people were involved in this "operation or scheme."
"The district attorney or even someone higher need to be brought in here," he said. "I think everyone on this list deserves to know what the extent of this operation is. ... There's a pattern here."
Sullivan, who is working closely with both Laboy and Romero, said, at the least, "this appears to be a software package that really just got out of control by two employees who were really inquisitive."
But on a larger scale, it's just more bad press for a city struggling to improve.
"This just continues to be more and more of a black eye as the story continues to unfold," Sullivan said.