A Lawrence police officer was indicted in federal court Tuesday on charges of soliciting a bribe from a towing company in return for giving it business, according to the US attorney in Boston.
Pedro Jose Lopez, 46, who has been an officer in the Lawrence Police Department since 1997, is accused of soliciting a $4,000 snowplow from a Lawrence towing company and then lying to an FBI agent, as well as providing a fake receipt for the reimbursement of the plow, US Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz said in a statement. Ortiz did not name the company.
Lopez is charged with “soliciting a bribe, making a false statement to a federal law enforcement officer, and obstructing justice,” the statement said.
“As of last Wednesday, he was placed on paid administrative leave by me,” Police Chief John J. Romero said Tuesday night. “Only the mayor can suspend him without pay.
“I have made a request to the mayor today as the indictment came down to suspend him without pay,” said Romero. “As it stands right now, he remains on the payroll.”
Alexander R. Cain, a lawyer representing Lopez, declined to comment Tuesday night. Lopez and Mayor William Lantigua also could not be reached for comment Tuesday night.
According to court documents, some of Lopez’s responsibilities included the ticketing and towing of vehicles.
Lawrence has four companies that tow vehicles for the city, and each is used in a rotation week by the Police Department, court documents stated.
During a company’s “tow week,” it is used exclusively by police, said Romero, with the exception of AAA. But Lopez is charged with giving the company he allegedly accepted the bribe from, some of that business.
The chief would not identify the companies used for towing in Lawrence.
Lopez is accused of soliciting the snowplow in exchange for giving towing business to the company from December 2010 to June 2011, Ortiz said.
Court documents indicate that Lopez then gave false information to an FBI agent on July 13, 2011, saying that he reimbursed the towing company owner for the plow in cash.
If found guilty, Lopez could face up to five years in prison for the false statement charge, 10 years for the bribery charge, and 20 years for the obstruction of justice charge, as well as fines and years of supervised release, Ortiz said in the statement.
Lopez did not appear in court Tuesday and will be summoned to court, said Christina DiIorio-Sterling, a spokeswoman for Ortiz.
The court has not yet set a date, she said.
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