EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

January 8, 2013

Trouble follows Lantigua political players

Mayor's campaign committee faces probes, allegation

LAWRENCE — The campaign for re-election that Mayor William Lantigua recently announced will be run by a political committee dogged by blunders over the last year and facing ongoing investigations into financial irregularities dating back to Lantigua’s last campaign for the statehouse in 2008.

The troubles for Lantigua and his campaign organization mounted through 2012, beginning on Jan. 23, when state election officials concluded that Lantigua and four top campaign aides violated nine key campaign finance laws over four years.

Among them, the Office of Campaign and Political Finance said Lantigua, his committee and the aides accepted contributions solicited on the job by public employees, inaccurately reported contributions and accepted contributions in cash, from corporations and beyond the $500-a-year annual limit for individuals.

Besides Lantigua, others accused of wrongdoing include his former campaign treasurer, Lorenza Ortega, who also is Lantigua’s wife; his current treasurer, Ana Soto, who also is Lantigua’s sister, and the manager of his 2009 mayoral campaign, Melix Bonilla, a city cop who Lantigua promoted from sergeant to deputy chief after his election. Lantigua put Bonilla on paid leave shortly after he was indicted on Sept. 11 on fraud, extortion and other charges unrelated to Lantigua’s campaigns.

OCPF referred its findings to state Attorney General Martha Coakley, who said through an aide that the investigation is ongoing but would not elaborate.

Also pending against Lantigua is a request for a second investigation OCPF Director Michael Sullivan sent to Coakley in June, asking her to take “the strongest possible action” against the mayor and a handful of other elected officials for their failures to file forms disclosing fund-raising and spending by their campaign organizations in 2011. The form was due Jan. 20, 2012, and were not filed by yesterday, making them by now 50 weeks overdue.

Also pending is the $5,000 fine — the maximum allowed — that OCPF levied on Lantigua after his campaign failed to file the 2011 disclosure forms. In August, after Lantigua disregarded OCPF’s attempts to collect the fine, the agency turned the debt over to a private collection agency. Lantigua is personally responsible for paying the fine and cannot pass it off to his campaign organization.

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