BOSTON - A federal judge today sentenced fired Lawrence police officer PJ Lopez to 18-months in jail and 36 months probation for his conviction last fall in a bribery scheme involving a city tow company.
He was also ordered to pay a $10,000 fine.
Federal prosecutors wanted Lopez, 47, to serve 27 months in jail, followed by two years probation and a $10,000 fine. Lopez’s attorney, Alex Cain of North Andover, asked for a sentence of three years probation, saying Lopez’s family would face financial ruin in he went to prison.
After week-long trial at U.S. District Court in South Boston, Lopez was convicted of bribery, obstruction of justice and lying to a federal agent for arranging a kickback scheme with M & W Towing of Lawrence and its owner Wilson Calixto.
A federal jury deliberated for three hours before finding Lopez, a 16-year police officer, guilty.
Fired on Oct. 21 from the Lawrence Police Department, Lopez has remained free, with some restrictions, while awaiting sentencing.
The maximum penalty, under federal law, is 20 years in prison on the obstruction charge, 10 years on the bribery charge and five years for lying to a federal
agent. Each charge carried maximum penalties of $250,000 each.
Lopez had no criminal record prior to this federal conviction.
When he was convicted, federal Judge Mark Wolf told Lopez he was only allowed to leave the state to go to Salem, N.H. to do errands. His expired passport was turned over to the federal probation office in Boston and he was ordered to call the probation office on a daily basis and visit the office weekly pending sentencing.
The M & W Towing scheme involved Lopez purchasing several vehicles at reduced rates and receiving a $4,000 snow plow in exchange for sending an increase in police-ordered tows to M & W from December 2010 to January 2011.
M & W at that time was one of four city companies that towed for the city of Lawrence on a rotating basis. Calixto, who was granted immunity for prosecution in exchange for his testimony against Lopez, said he made roughly $150 for every tow ordered by police.
Also, Mayra Colon, who worked under the table at M & W as Calixto’s secretary, testified last week that after FBI agents started questioning her and others about Lopez, she created a fake receipt showing Lopez paid $4,000 for the snow plow. Colon, who was also granted immunity from prosecution, later told police she fabricated the receipt and made up the payment story.
More on this story in tomorrow’s Eagle-Tribune, eagletribune.com.
Follow staff reporter Jill Harmacinski on Twitter @EagleTribJill.