Nov 18 2013

Burlington Police officer arraigned on charges of illegally obtaining prescription drugs and making fake disability claims

Dr. Q

This post is a press release from the Middlesex County DA’s office.

WOBURN – A Burlington Police Officer was arraigned on charges of falsifying prescriptions and making false disability claims, Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan announced today.

Mark Driscoll, 38, of Wakefield, was arraigned Friday in Middlesex Superior Court in Woburn on charges of forgery, larceny over $250, attempting to commit larceny, uttering false prescriptions, fraudulently obtaining controlled substances, obtaining a signature under false pretenses, and insurance fraud. Middlesex Superior Court Clerk MagistrateMatthew Day released the defendant on personal recognizance with the following conditions: he not leave the Commonwealth without approval of the Court, consume no alcohol, possess no drugs without a prescription, and participate in substance abuse treatment and mental health treatment.

The defendant’s next court date is December 12 for a pre-trial hearing.

“These are troubling allegations where an officer – while in uniform – knowingly passed false prescriptions and also made false disability claims to illegally obtain insurance money,” District Attorney Ryan said. “This officer violated the trust of the community of Burlington. I commend the collaborative work among agencies which resulted in the bringing of charges against this defendant for these fraudulent activities.”

According to authorities, Driscoll, a Burlington Police Officer since July 2004, went to a CVS Pharmacy in Burlington on July 10, 2013 seeking to obtain Percocet pills. The defendant, in his police uniform, attempted to fill a prescription in his wife’s name purportedly written by a physician’s assistant in Cambridge. The on-duty pharmacist noted that the prescription did not meet new security features that went into effect on July 1, 2013, and told the officer it could not be filled until it could be verified by the doctor the next morning. The pharmacist contacted the orthopedic practice on July 11, 2013 to verify the prescription and a doctor from the practice confirmed it was not valid.

Burlington Police were notified and an investigation was launched. Based on the investigation, officials allege that Driscoll had presented five fraudulent prescriptions to CVS pharmacy between May and July of 2013. It is alleged that Driscoll received more than 260 Percocet tablets through these false prescriptions.

Further, with the assistance of the Massachusetts Prescription Monitoring Program, officials learned that Driscoll also passed false prescriptions for pain medication at an Osco Pharmacy located in a Burlington supermarket. There, he allegedly filled four prescriptions, including several refills, between May and July, receiving hundreds of various pain medications. In all but one instance, Driscoll dropped off and picked up medications while in his police uniform.

On July 12, 2013, Driscoll was placed on administrative leave by the Burlington Police Department.

On July 25, 2013, Burlington Police were notified that the defendant had submitted paperwork to an insurance company for payment through a disability policy. A review of the documents revealed that the defendant submitted a letter with a forged signature from a member of the department’s administrative staff. A further investigation revealed that the defendant had submitted eight prior claims to the disability insurance provider since 2006. While he was working as a police officer, the defendant allegedly received disability payments, collecting tens of thousands of dollars in fraudulent benefits.

As a result of the investigation, the defendant was indicted September 24 by a Middlesex Grand Jury.

These charges are allegations and the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty.

The case was investigated by the Burlington Police, the Unum Group, and the Insurance Fraud Bureau of Massachusetts. The prosecutors assigned to the case are Assistant District Attorneys Elisha Willis and Kristen Noto.

Oct 11 2013

Winthrop auxiliary police officer arrested for selling cocaine

Dr. Q

The Associated Press reports:

A Winthrop auxiliary police officer has been charged with selling cocaine from his police vehicle while in uniform.

Bledar Naco was arrested by the FBI last week.

The FBI followed Naco for six months after a tip from Lynn police.

The 34-year-old Naco mad an initial appearance in U.S. District Court on Friday on a charge of distribution of a Class B substance and was held pending a detention hearing. He did not enter a plea.

Naco was an unpaid volunteer auxiliary officer in Winthrop for a year and a half before his arrest.

WHDH also has a video about this case here:

Sep 28 2013

Worcester police officer arrested on assault and drug charges

Dr. Q

The Telegram & Gazette reports:

A Worcester police officer is being held at the Worcester County Jail after he was arrested Thursday in Southbridge in connection with a domestic assault.

Robert A. Farrar, 42, of 170 Prince Road, Southbridge, is charged with assault and battery, aggravated assault and battery, assault and battery with a dangerous weapon (a belt) and possession of Percocet. He is being held until a dangerousness hearing is held next week.

A not guilty plea was entered on his behalf during his arraignment Friday at Dudley District Court.

According to Worcester Police Sgt. Kerry Hazelhurst, Officer Farrar is a 19-year veteran of the Worcester Police Department. He has been placed on paid administrative leave, per department policy in such instances. As a result, the Worcester Police Department’s Bureau of Professional Standards is conducting an internal investigation into the matter.

Officer Farrar is being held without bail until the dangerousness hearing is held Wednesday.

I wish it was my job’s policy to give me a paid vacation if I was arrested for a violent crime.

Update (9/18/2013): Farrar is now facing new charges. The charges include four counts of rape and three counts of assault and battery.

Sep 25 2013

Burlington police officer indicted on prescription drug and forgery charges

Dr. Q reports:

Mark Driscoll, 38, of Wakefield, was charged with forgery, larceny over $250, attempting to commit larceny, uttering false prescriptions, fraudulently obtaining controlled substances, obtaining a signature under false pretenses, and insurance fraud, Middlesex District Attorney Marian T. Ryan’s office said in a statement.

Driscoll is slated to be arraigned Oct. 9 in Middlesex Superior Court, the statement said.

Driscoll has been a member of the Burlington Police Department since 2004; he was placed on administrative leave July 12, the statement said.

On July 10, Driscoll allegedly went to a Burlington CVS Pharmacy to obtain Percocet pills. The pharmacist noticed that the prescription he provided did not match new security features and told Driscoll it could not be filled. The following day, the pharmacist called the doctor, who confirmed it was not a valid prescription, the statement said.

Burlington police launched an investigation and found that Driscoll had used five false prescriptions to obtain more than 260 Percocet pills from that pharmacy between May and July, the statement said.

Driscoll also passed false prescriptions for hundreds of pills of various pain medications between May and July at an Osco Pharmacy in a Burlington supermarket, the statement said.

In all but one of the instances, Driscoll was wearing a police uniform, the statement said.

Burlington police also alleged that Driscoll had submitted paperwork with forged signatures to an insurance company, seeking payment from a disability policy. He allegedly submitted eight claims to the provider from 2006 to this year, and received tens of thousands of dollars in payments, the statement said.

Sep 20 2013

Two more sue over Lowell police informant corruption

Dr. Q

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.

The Lowell Sun reports:

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.

Sep 3 2013

Lowell police sued for framing people using informants who planted drugs

Dr. Q

The Boston Globe reports:

A Lowell man is expected to file a federal civil rights lawsuit Tuesday against the city of Lowell and a Lowell police officer who relied on two informants suspected of planting drugs on dozens of innocent victims, a scandal that already has led prosecutors to drop charges in 17 pending drug and firearm cases and to overturn two convictions.

Jonathan Santiago, a 25-year-old with no prior drug convictions whose case was among those dismissed, said an informant planted cocaine in the gas cap compartment of his car in February 2012, then alerted police, who arrested him. He said police then filed a false report that concealed the informant’s role.

“I just couldn’t believe it — that law enforcement would actually do something like this,” Santiago said in a Globe interview, adding that his arrest, jailing, and ensuing legal ordeal changed his life. “I pretty much stay home now. I don’t go out anymore. I feel like I can’t trust anyone.”

Santiago’s lawsuit says that scores of others may have suffered a similar fate, noting that one of the informants has been working with Lowell police for the last decade — the arresting officer in Santiago’s case alone has testified to using the informant in more than 50 cases. The lawsuit also says that “Lowell police officers allowed [the informant] to commit crimes because he assisted them as an informant.”

Neither the police officer, veteran Detective Thomas Lafferty, nor a spokesman for the Lowell police would address the specific allegations in the federal lawsuit, referring questions to the city’s legal department. Lowell’s chief legal official, City Solicitor Christine O’Connor, was unavailable for comment.

Defense lawyers said the allegations in the lawsuit echo disclosures in the case of Annie Dookhan, the state chemist whose allegedly faked drug analyses were used to obtain convictions that have now been overturned, and the trial of notorious gangster James “Whitey’ Bulger, who Bulger asserts was allowed by his FBI handlers to commit crimes in exchange for providing information on other criminals.

The Santiago lawsuit alleges “the widespread misuse of confidential informants in the Lowell Police Department” and a “policy or custom of tolerating violations of people’s constitutional rights in order to obtain convictions.”

Middlesex prosecutors dropped charges or vacated convictions against Santiago and 18 other defendants earlier this year after one of the informants advertised his services to the Massachusetts State Police and “boasted about his skill and experience in planting evidence,” citing specific examples of his work with the other informant on behalf of Lowell police, according to the lawsuit.

The ordeal began after he left a friend’s apartment and encountered one of the informants, an acquaintance, who asked him to join him at a local bar for a drink, but insisted that he take his own car.

Lafferty and two other officers were waiting for Santiago and pulled him over, later asserting in a police report that Santiago had been swerving in the vehicle and circling the neighborhood “like a drug dealer.” Santiago said those assertions were false.

“To make it appear that they independently found the drugs,” the lawsuit says, “Lafferty called in a police dog to search Mr. Santiago’s car,” and the dog led officers to the gas cap compartment of Santiago’s car.

After opening the compartment, the lawsuit says, Lafferty and the other officers found nearly 27 grams of cocaine and booked Santiago on charges of cocaine trafficking and cocaine trafficking in a school zone, because Lafferty and the other officers “chose to stop Mr. Santiago’s car as he was driving near a school.”

Santiago was facing a mandatory five-year prison term when the charges against him were suddenly dropped.

When Santiago’s public defender, Julie Olsen, asked why, prosecutors told her there was a problem with the informant, which she said was the first time she realized an informant was involved in the case.

Looking back, Santiago said he was particularly traumatized at the thought of what his two young girls would think. “I wouldn’t want them to see me in prison. I wouldn’t want them to see me in that state,” he said.