The Registry of Motor Vehicles has suspended the driving school licenses of a Lawrence man charged with drug trafficking and started the process of getting refunds for students attending schools he owns in North Andover, Haverhill and Andover.
According to a Registry spokesperson, Michael Larocque "violated the terms and conditions of maintaining a professional driving school license and a professional driving school instructor's license," it was determined at a hearing held this week.
As a result, the state agency governing the driving schools owned by 56-year-old Larocque — North Andover Auto School, MV Auto School in Haverhill and satellite locations at North Andover High School and Greater Lawrence Technical School in Andover — said they must immediately cease operations.
The ruling comes less than three weeks after Larocque was arrested at his Colonial Road home and booked at the State Police barracks in Newbury. He was charged with having 2 pounds of methamphetamine at his Lawrence home and 400 grams of the drug at North Andover Auto School, according to police. As of Thursday, Larocque was still held at Middleton Jail. His next court appearance is scheduled for Oct. 19.
Massachusetts laws that govern driving school instructors say the state may suspend or revoke a license or refuse to renew a license for various reasons, including the license holder being linked to criminal activity. State law also requires driving schools to post a bond to ensure students' tuition will be refunded if a school closes due to a license suspension or revocation, or for any other reason.
In an email sent Wednesday night to families of students enrolled in Larocque's schools, Registry officials said refunds will be secured through a performance bond that was put in place for reimbursement purposes in instances where services are not delivered.
"This (reimbursement) process is governed by statute and regulation, and as such, the RMV asks for your patience as this process may take several weeks to complete," the email read in part.
Students are asked to gather receipts for services not delivered, but not to submit them to the Registry until directed to do so. Additional instructions will be forthcoming depending on the specific amount of driver's education training a student has completed and/or the amount of money that has been paid to the school. According to the email sent by the Registry, students who transfer to another driving school to complete their training may be required to pay for their new course even if they paid North Andover Auto School in full.
The cost for a student driver's course is $725 at MV Auto School and $750 at North Andover Auto School, according to their websites. Students were required to pay a non-refundable deposit of $350 at registration, the websites say.
The email sent to students from the Registry outlines a variety of next steps for them to take, depending on how far along they are in their training. Road tests scheduled for Saturday have been rescheduled to Tuesday of next week. Since North Andover Auto School does not have an active license, the Registry told students taking tests on that day that they must bring a parent or guardian sponsor to their road test.
Those tests are taking place at the Registry's Haverhill Service Center at 229-C Lincoln Ave. in Riversedge Plaza instead of the driving school, the email said.
If convicted of the drug-related charges against him, Larocque faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 12 years in state prison, according to Lawrence District Court Judge Michael Uhlarik, who presided over Larocque's arraignment after he was arrested.
Law enforcement officials said the drug investigation involving Larocque began about two months ago and included multiple controlled purchases from both Larocque's home and the driving school in North Andover.