EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

January 5, 2013

DOR releases tax lien against Lantigua

Jill Harmacinski and Mark E. Vogler
Staff Writters

---- — LAWRENCE — Mayor William Lantigua no longer owes the state Department of Revenue for unpaid income taxes.

DOR spokeswoman Ann Dufrense said the agency had released its lien against the mayor yesterday — just two days after filing it.

“It was electronically recorded at the Secretary of State’s Office and was sent overnight today to the Essex County Registry of Deeds where they will likely record it next week,” Dufrense told The Eagle-Tribune.

Dufrense would not comment on how the mayor settled his outstanding tax issues with the agency.

“Because of confidentiality laws, I cannot disclose specific tax information except to say that liens are generally satisfied because 1) the taxpayer has paid the obligation, 2) it was determined that the assessment was not owed based on additional information provided by the taxpayer or through verification of third party data or 3) the assessment became uncollectable because of the statute of limitations and the passage of time,” Dufrense wrote in an email.

“I have no comment at this time,” the mayor said when contacted last night.

On Wednesday, the DOR had filed a $5,475 lien with the Essex County Registry of Deeds against Lantigua for failing to pay state income tax in 2011.

Lantigua, who has been mayor since January 2010 and recently announced plans to seek a second four-year-term, owed $4,765 in unpaid taxes and another $710 in fees, penalties and interest, according to the lien.

His address on the lien is 86A Boxford St., property owned by his girlfriend, Lorenza Ortega, a confidential secretary in the City Hall personnel department.

The lien, filed against Lantigua personally because he doesn’t own any property, is “one of the final steps,” the state takes to recoup unpaid taxes, Dufrense said at the time.

Dufresne, speaking generally about the lien process, said DOR also makes numerous attempts to contact the taxpayer, garnish paychecks and recoup tax money from Internal Revenue Service payments or insurance settlement money.

It was unclear if there was ever any attempt to garnish Lantigua’s $100,000 annual mayoral salary.

The tax lien was the latest in Lantigua’s personal financial issues. The mayor already owes the state $5,000 for failure to file campaign finance disclosure forms by Jan. 20, 2011. In September, after those $25-per-day fines maxed out at $5,000, the state’s Office of Campaign and Political Finance turned the debt over to a private collection agency.

Lantigua and his administration also remain the focus of a state and federal investigation that involves bid rigging, suspicious out-of-country travel, an illegal car swap deal and shipment of a trash truck, two ambulances and school bus to the Dominican Republic.

The ongoing probe has already led to grand jury indictments of two top Lantigua allies — Leonard Degnan, his former chief of staff, and Deputy Police Chief Melix Bonilla. Degnan is accused of forcing a city trash hauler to donate a truck for the Dominican Republic. Bonilla, Lantigua’s campaign manager, is the alleged architect of an illegal swap of 13 city-owned cars for four Impala sedans.