LAWRENCE — Tanya Estevez allegedly left her two children with a stranger at a car crash scene last May while she fled in a cab.
Now, a lengthy police investigation has led to motor vehicle, drug and child endangerment charges against Estevez, 29, of 37 Falmouth St. #3, Lawrence, as well as insurance fraud charges against attorney Robert Wood, 56, of 10 Country Spring Loop, Haverhill.
The case began last May 21, when Officer Stacey Griffin responded to a hit-and-run crash at Exeter and Grafton Streets. The crash victim, Kevin Fife, said he was driving on Winthrop Avenue when a woman in a 2005 Toyota Celica T-boned him. The woman got out of the car, which had a license plate saying "SMTNUP," and identified herself to Fife as Tanya Estevez, police reports said.
Fife told police that Estevez handed him a cellphone and said the owner of the Celica wanted to speak to him.
"Fife took her phone and had a brief conversation with a male who Fife claims attempted to intimidate him by saying, 'I want all your information, you're at fault,'" a police report said.
A stranger drove Estevez's daughters, around the ages of 7 and 8, home to Falmouth Street while Estevez flagged down a taxi and left, according to police reports.
Police have reported Estevez to the state Department of Children and Families.
The tow truck driver told police that he towed the Celica two days before the accident. He towed the car after Officer Charles Saindon stopped Estevez for having a brake light out. Saindon found that Estevez's license was suspended for nonpayment of child support. She said the car belonged to her friend, Wood, police reports said.
Saindon cited Estevez for operating with a suspended license and he cited Wood for allowing an unlicensed driver to use his car and for having a defective brake light. The tow truck driver said Wood picked up the car from the towing company, police said.
Wood works at Compucom in Tewksbury. He allegedly went to the Tewksbury police station to report his car stolen on the day of the hit-and-run and left without filing the report after hearing that Lawrence police recovered the car.
Wood reported his car stolen to his insurance company, Liberty Mutual, but he withdrew the claims on June 14. Liberty Mutual paid $105 for a rental car, according to a report by Liberty Mutual investigator Debbie Ushkevich.
Police arrested Wood and Estevez on warrants yesterday. At Estevez's home, they found alcohol, a crack pipe and prescription drugs. Some of the pills were in bottles with Estevez's name on them, some were in bottles with the names scratched off and some bottles had different pills mixed together, police said.
Estevez cried. "Please don't take my kids," she said.
Her 15-year-old nephew, whom she has custody of, and her 1-year-old daughter were with her.
"Her breath wreaked of alcohol and she became very emotional at times," Sgt. Michael Simard wrote in his report. "She was definitely intoxicated, but not drunk."
Estevez's mother took temporary custody of the children, and an investigator from the Department of Children and Families responded to the police station, police said. Estevez's attorney, Socrates de la Cruz, declined to comment last night.
"I'm not going to comment much about it, other than my client does deny the allegations and he is looking forward to asserting his innocence in court," said Wood's attorney, Alex Cain.
Police Chief John Romero acknowledged the delay in filing charges. He said it happened because the Police Department took officers out of the insurance fraud task force and put them on regular patrol due to budget cuts. Those officers continue working on insurance cases, time permitting, he said.
"Obviously things are delayed now that there's less resources, but we intend to get to each and every one of these cases," Romero said.
Wood is charged with larceny over $250 by false pretense, intimidating a witness, filing a fraudulent motor vehicle insurance claim and attempting to commit a crime. Estevez is charged with operating a motor vehicle with a suspended license, leaving the scene of a property damage accident, failing to yield at an intersection, possession of a class E drug and two counts of child endangerment.
Wood and Estevez are scheduled to be arraigned today in Lawrence District Court.