A Lawrence police officer, a 15-year veteran, was convicted in federal court Tuesday of bribery and obstruction of justice for soliciting a bribe from a towing company in exchange for sending business the company’s way.
Pedro Jose Lopez, 47, sat stoically as the verdict of guilty was announced three times. His family members sat crying in the front row.
Lopez is slated to be sentenced Jan. 14, and he faces close to three years under federal sentencing guidelines. He was convicted of bribery, obstruction of justice, and lying to a federal agent.
“This is about a police officer who used his position for his gain, then lied about it to the FBI,” said Assistant US Attorney Andrew E. Lelling.
Lopez was indicted just over a year ago, accused of soliciting a free snow plow, valued at $4,000, from a company, M & W Towing Co., of Lawrence, in exchange for sending tow jobs to the company.
He later lied about it to an FBI agent and produced a bogus receipt.
Prosecutors alleged that he received other gifts from the company as he continued to send more business to M&W Towing.
A routine arrest outside a city strip club in May has exposed a rift between the Worcester Police Department and the district attorney’s office, touched off by allegations that a key piece of evidence — a videotape — is missing.
The case has also launched an internal affairs probe into the arresting officer, Joseph Vigliotti.
Officer Vigliotti is accused by 22-year-old Nigel H. Edwards of Cranston, R.I., of using excessive force, filing a false police report and committing racial profiling. Mr. Edwards was arrested May 5 outside the Emperor’s Lounge on five charges including assault and battery on a police officer and assault. Another man was arrested in the case as well. Mr. Edwards is black; Officer Vigliotti is white.
Through his lawyer, Officer Vigliotti, a 12-year police veteran, denies any wrongdoing in the case.
Mr. Edwards agreed in September to nine months of pretrial probation to settle the charges against him — in his words, to make the charges go away. At the time, he said he accepted probation because he was concerned if his case ever went to trial, it would be his word against the police officer’s. A jury would inherently believe an officer, Mr. Edwards said — especially since the videotape evidence filmed by the club’s security cameras was missing.
“I am concerned that justice has been obstructed in this matter, and the loss of evidence was intentional,” Mr. Edwards wrote in his internal affairs complaint. “The videotape was absolute definitive proof that Officer Vigliotti used excessive force; pepper sprayed me without merit and falsely arrested me.”
In an interview, Mr. Edwards explained why he agreed to pretrial probation.
“It is my word against these two powerhouses,” Mr. Edwards said, referring to police and District Attorney Joseph D. Early Jr.’s office. “All I have is my word and that video of what happened, and it was lost. I feel like I was weaseled into something I didn’t really want to be into.”
Mr. Edwards’ mother, Roberta D. Powell, has concerns about Officer Vigliotti having had possession of the evidence.
“If in fact the video shows Nigel’s versions of event, and I believe it does, then he (Officer Vigliotti) has every reason to get rid of it because it implicates him,” she said.
Officer Vigliotti’s lawyer brokered the signing of a release stating that Mr. Edwards would not sue the officer or the city of Worcester. Officials said the Police Department’s administration was unaware of the release agreement. It was crafted by John K. Vigliotti, the officer’s brother and lawyer. Attorney Vigliotti’s firm represents officers through the Massachusetts Police Association Legal Defense Fund.
This is an important and disturbing story. Read the entire article here.
Earlier this month, the city of Lowell and Lowell police detective Thomas Lafferty were sued by a man who says he was framed by the police after an informant planted drugs on him. Now, two more victims have stepped forward and filed lawsuits.
Two more people who were arrested on drug and firearms charges — only to have them dismissed as part of the 17 cases dropped in the wake of the Lowell police-informant probe — filed a federal civil-rights lawsuit Thursday in U.S. District Court against the city of Lowell and a veteran Lowell police officer.
In the latest round of lawsuits against the city and Lowell Police Officer Thomas Lafferty, attorney Howard Friedman, representing Nel Sothy and Tutis Kuria, filed claim the confidential informants Lafferty used planted evidence that led to them being falsely arrested.
In Kuria’s case, he claims a firearm was planted in his car, while Sothy and a third plaintiff, Jonathan Santiago, who filed a lawsuit two weeks ago, allege that drugs were planted by the informants in the gas-cap covers of their cars. After the evidence was planted, the informants tipped off police.
Friedman, who represents all three men, wrote that Lafferty’s conduct was the result of the city’s “systematic failure to supervise confidential informants within its police department.”
The attorney adds that for more than 20 years, Lowell police ignored their own written policies on the use of informants because the Special Investigation Section believed “the ends justified the means.”
[I]n the Sothy lawsuit, Friedman alleges that the 32-year-old former Ayer man, who now lives in Virginia, was framed by the informant during a family night out on Aug. 1, 2012, at the Azores Club in Lowell. The informant allegedly planted 29 grams of a chunky white substance that included cocaine inside the gas cap of Sothy’s car. Lafferty and other members of SIS were waiting for Sothy as he left the club.
Sothy was charged with trafficking in cocaine over 28 grams, which if convicted carries a minimum mandatory sentence of five years in prison.
Sothy was indicted by a grand jury and the case was transferred to Superior Court on Oct. 11, 2012. It wasn’t until March 22 that the case was dropped by the Middlesex District Attorney’s Office due to the probe.
As a result of the criminal charges, Sothy, a pharmacy technician, who had worked eight years at CVS, was told to take an unpaid leave. While he has worked since his arrest, it is not at the same level of pay, his lawyer wrote.
In Kuria’s case, Lafferty wrote in court documents that in the week before Kuria ‘s Oct. 11, 2011, arrest he spoke to a “past reliable informant” regarding a man named Titus who was in possession of a firearm he was trying to sell.
At 9:30 p.m. on Oct. 11, 2011, Lafferty located Kuria’s blue Dodge Stratta outside the bar. Lafferty spotted Kuria leaving the bar with a plastic bag in his right hand, get into his car and drive away. The car was stopped for an expired registration.
In the lawsuit, Friedman alleges the informant planted a .32-caliber gun under the passenger seat then told Lafferty where it was hidden. Kuria was driving to his job as a licensed practical nurse when he was pulled over, ordered to the ground at gunpoint and the gun found under the passenger seat.
The Middlesex District Attorney’s Office dropped the case nearly 18 months later.
“The arrest destroyed Mr. Kuria’s life, leaving him homeless and unemployed,” according to the lawsuit.
A Medford police officer has been indicted on two counts of witness intimidation after allegedly working to cover up evidence in a shooting investigation. WickedLocal.com reports:
Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan announced today that two men have been indicted on murder charges in connection with a Stoneham double shooting that killed one man and injured another, and that a local police officer has been indicted on charges in connection with lying to investigators during the homicide investigation.
On Thursday, Aug. 15, Jessie Williams, 24, of Medford, and Eugene Tate, 19, of Malden, were indicted by a Middlesex Grand Jury on charges of murder, armed assault with intent to murder, armed assault in a dwelling, assault with a dangerous weapon, armed robbery, and illegal possession of a firearm.
An arraignment in Middlesex Superior Court in Woburn has not yet been scheduled.
Williams and Tate were arrested last month and subsequently charged with murder, armed assault with intent to murder, assault with a dangerous weapon, armed robbery and illegal possession of a firearm. Each pleaded not guilty at their arraignment in Woburn District Court a week after the murder took place, and Judge Timothy Gailey ordered both suspects held without bail.
Williams and Tate are accused of shooting two men at a home garage off Micah’s Pond Way in Stoneham, just after midnight on July 3.
Police were dispatched at 12:19 a.m. to investigate gunshots and found Joseph Puopolo, 27, suffering from bullet wounds to the chest and wrist. He was pronounced dead shortly after at the Leahy Clinic.
The second victim, described only as a 28-year-old man, suffered a broken rib when he was shot in the abdomen.
“We allege that these two defendants murdered Joseph Puopolo and wounded a second victim during an attempted robbery,” Ryan said in a post-arraignment statement last month. “This was a senseless crime and our thoughts and prayers remain with the victim’s family during this difficult time.”
Stoneham Police and Massachusetts State Police assigned to the District Attorney’s Office launched an immediate investigation into the circumstances of the July 3 incident. The investigation revealed that the 28-year-old victim arranged to sell drugs to the two defendants through known associates. Puopolo was a friend of the 28-year-old victim and happened to be present in his home on that evening.
According to police, Puopolo was not associated with any alleged drug transaction. It is alleged that Williams and Tate entered the home shortly after midnight to complete a drug deal. When they entered the home, the two defendants allegedly drew handguns, demanded drugs and money, and then shot Puopolo and the 28-year-old victim.
The local officer who was also indicted on Aug. 15 was Miguel Lopez, 53, of Stoneham, who is said to be a member of the Medford Police Department. He was indicted by a Middlesex Grand Jury on two counts of witness intimidation.
“These are very serious allegations that a law enforcement official acted to conceal evidence and hinder a police investigation into a double shooting that left one man dead,” Ryan said. “This alleged conduct compromises the integrity of our criminal justice system and we will fully prosecute any one who attempts to interfere with an investigation.”
When reached for comment, the Medford Police Department referred all calls to the District Attorney’s Office.
As part of the investigation following the July 3 shooting, State Police interviewed Lopez, who lives at 6 Micah’s Pond Way in Stoneham along with the 28-year-old victim. It is alleged that during the course of the interview Lopez lied to police and that in an attempt to cover up a reported drug deal that allegedly led to the double shooting, Lopez removed evidence from the home.
An arraignment date in Middlesex Superior Court for Lopez has also not yet been scheduled.
Ludlow Police Lt. Thomas F. Foye was at work Thursday morning when investigators found cocaine in his right front uniform pocket after he was seen searching evidence bags in the locked narcotics locker at the police station, according to court records.
Foye, 49, of Valley View Drive, denied charges of cocaine possession and larceny of a drug at his arraignment Thursday afternoon in Palmer District Court.
Judge Patricia T. Poehler ordered Foye to turn in all his firearms, as well as his license to carry a firearm, to the Ludlow Police Department. She also ordered him to remain drug free, undergo a substance abuse evaluation and to submit to random drug screens, as conditions of his release.
Wearing a white undershirt, Foye said little during the arraignment. The details of the charges against Foye were not read in court. His attorney was David K. Chivers, who was appointed for bail only. Foye will return to court on Oct. 1 for a pretrial conference.
Assistant Attorney General Marina Moriarty is prosecuting the case. She said the bail was agreed to by Chivers. Poehler told Foye that because this is a drug-related case, he is entitled to request an exam to determine if he is a drug dependent person.
Poehler told Foye he must keep the Probation Department aware of where he is living and not commit a crime, as additional conditions of his release. The charges were brought by state police.
After his arraignment, Foye was whisked away in an unmarked police cruiser. He left out the back door, apparently to avoid the media waiting for his exit outside.
Foye, a longtime police officer, recently was named a provisional lieutenant, and was formerly a sergeant in the detective bureau. He previously also worked as the department’s D.A.R.E. officer – a role in which he was charged with teaching students in grades 2, 4, 5 and 7 about the dangers of drug use.
Foye’s more recent history at the department includes an incident in which a suspect in a drug case allegedly went to his home to intimidate him for his role in the investigation.
The suspect was convicted in January of 2012 on a range of charges, including possession of cocaine with intent to distribute. He was convicted trespassing, intimidation of a witness, and resisting arrest for the incident at Foye’s home, during which he threatened to “get even” with Foye from jail and then chest-bumped him, leading to a scuffle.
Last year, Foye participated in a forum at Ludlow High School where he warned parents and residents about the growing danger of prescription drug abuse. He said the drug problem in Ludlow is the worst he has seen in the 25 years he has been working for the Police Department.
Hampden District Attorney Mark G. Mastroianni said Thursday it is too early for him to tell if Foye’s arrest will have any collateral effects on any current or recent prosecutions involving the Ludlow Police Department.
Mastroianni said his office will evaluate any possible ways Foye’s arrest might affect prosecutions as more facts are gathered about the situation which led to the arrest.
Check the full article here for details about how he was allegedly caught.
Boston.com reports that on November 18th, State Police Captain Thomas McCarthy was arrested after leading Saugus police officers on a motor vehicle chase.
Saugus police were responding to an alarm an reports of an argument at a woman’s home. When they arrived, they found the woman standing in her garage and Captain McCarthy driving away in an unmarked Ford Crown Victoria police cruiser.
Shortly after, Saugus police officer James M. Scott found McCarthy swerving in and out of a lane on Central Street and attempted to pull him over. McCarthy kept driving for about a block, but finally stopped. At this point, McCarthy turned on his flashers to signal that he was a police officer.
Officer Scott approached McCarthy’s vehicle. He wrote in his report that he could smell alcohol on McCarthy’s breath. He told McCarthy to shut off his vehicle and McCarthy allegedly responded by saying something like “Are you kidding me?”
Scott asked McCarthy to shut off his vehicle again and McCarthy allegedly said “You’ve got to be kidding me. I’m outta here.” At this point, he drove off.
McCarthy led Saugus police on a high speed chase, allegedly blowing through a stop sign, before finally stopping in the parking lot of Sears Automotive.
Scott and a second officer who has arrived as backup attempted to place McCarthy under arrest, but he resisted and they had to wrestle him to the ground to get him in handcuffs. After they arrested him, they searched his vehicle and found two unopened beer bottles, one empty beer bottle, and McCarthy’s firearm.
McCarthy was charged with failure to stop for a police officer and failure to stay in marked lanes by the Saugus police. He was also suspended indefinitely without pay from his job by the state police.
McCarthy was supposed to be arraigned at the Lynn District Court, but skipped out on the court hearing. His lawyer, Daniel W. O’Malley, told the court that McCarthy could not make it because he was at a “facility in Florida” which is likely a rehab facility of some sort. He filed a motion to exclude MJcCarthy from the arraignment, but a judge denied this motion. The judge did, however, agree to a motion to move the arraignment to December 2.
This story is pretty disturbing for a number of reasons. Obviously McCarthy’s behavior is extremely troubling in itself. However, the way the Saugus police dealt with him is also troubling. Although one officer indicated that he smelled alcohol on McCarthy’s breath and police found an empty bottle of beer in his car, they did not charge McCarthy with OUI. The police report for McCarthy’s arrest makes no mention of police conducting a field sobriety test, using a breathalyzer, or using any of the other methods police generally use to determine if a driver is drunk. This suggests that even though McCarthy led the police on a chase and resisted arrest, they were still willing to give him preferential treatment.
The Boston Heraldreports that State Police filed a criminal complaint in the Lynn District Court seeking a probable cause hearing to charge McCarthy with OUI. They are also investigating whether or not Officer James Scott was pressured by his department to give McCarthy special treatment.
According to the Herald, McCarthy made $213,474 last year.
I’ll post an update on this story as soon as more information becomes available. In the meantime, you can check out this news video about the case from WFXT/Fox News 25: