EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

July 19, 2013

Lawrence finance director testifies at grand jury investigating city parking garage

SALEM, Mass. — Lawrence finance director Mark Ianello yesterday testified before an Essex County Grand Jury seven months after meeting with FBI agents investigating thousands of dollars missing from a city-owned parking garage.

Ianello declined comment after arriving at Salem Superior Court at 9:30 a.m. to testify before the grand jury empaneled there. He carried a package of paperwork into the courthouse with him.

On Jan. 11, Ianello, 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 an investigation that involved surveillance and undercover agents buying parking passes, city worker Justo Garcia, 60, campaign photographer to Mayor William Lantigua, was arrested and charged with stealing from the city-owned Museum Square parking garage.

Garcia is also accused of submitting fraudulent receipts for money he allegedly accepted for monthly parking passes and faking his time card when he was working in the parking garage but allegedly campaigning for Lantigua, according to court documents.

On June 6, Garcia was arraigned on criminal charges in Lawrence District Court. The grand jury could mean Garcia will be indicted at the Superior Court level, where the penalties if convicted are more severe.

Lantigua was called on May 29 to testify at the grand jury. However, he was in the courthouse briefly and when he emerged 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 that involved allegations of bid rigging, illegal car swaps, campaign finance violations, suspicious out of country travel and more.

Sworn in as Lawrence mayor in January 2010, Lantigua has not been charged and has repeatedly said he has not committed any crimes.

Garcia’s attorney Sal Tabit yesterday said his client “maintains his innocence.”

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