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New England news in brief


15 charged in Lowell-area gang

Fifteen people have been indicted and 14 were arrested Thursday in connection with a Lowell-based criminal gang that has allegedly operated large, long-running drug trafficking and money laundering operations, officials said. The defendants are members and associates of One Family Clique, an alliance between several Lowell-area gangs with ties to gangs in California and other states, according to a statement from the US attorney’s office for Massachusetts. Thirteen of the defendants are Lowell residents; the other two live in Hudson and Medford, according to the statement. The 14 who were arrested made their initial appearance Thursday in federal court in Boston, where nine were ordered held without bail and five were released with conditions, a spokeswoman for the US attorney’s office said. One defendant was still a fugitive as of Thursday evening. “We allege that leaders and members of the One Family Clique trafficked drugs and firearms, contributing to the kind of violence we all know destroys communities,” Acting United States Attorney Nathaniel R. Mendell said in the statement. “The residents of Lowell will enjoy a safer summer thanks to the work of investigators and our prosecutors.” Authorities began investigating One Family Clique in August 2018 after Lowell experienced a dramatic increase in shootings and gang violence, according to the statement. At least a dozen incidents of gunfire in Lowell in 2018 and 2019 are believed to be the result of hostilities between the alliance and its rivals, prosecutors said.



Driver in fatal crash ordered held

The man who was allegedly fleeing police when he crashed head-on into a car in Saugus Wednesday, killing the 19-year-old driver, was arraigned Thursday from his hospital bed at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, officials said. William Leger, 35, of Somerville, appeared via video link for his arraignment in Lynn District Court, where he pleaded not guilty to seven charges, including motor vehicle homicide by reckless operation, the Essex district attorney’s office said in a statement. He was ordered held pending a dangerousness hearing set for June 17. Prosecutors said Leger robbed a convenience store and then drove a stolen vehicle at high speeds while going the wrong way on Route 107 in Saugus, where he collided with a vehicle driven by Ashley Forward of Lynn, who was pronounced dead at the scene. Forward had just finished her first year as a nursing student at Emmanuel College in Boston. She was driving to visit her grandmother when the crash occurred, her family said. Leger sustained non-life-threatening injuries and was taken to MGH, prosecutors said. An ongoing investigation has found that the car Leger was driving, a gray 2013 Volkswagen Jetta, was reported stolen last week and that he was driving with a suspended license, according to the statement. Leger also pleaded not guilty to charges of unarmed robbery, receiving a stolen vehicle (subsequent offense), operating a motor vehicle with a suspended license (subsequent offense), marked lanes violation, driving the wrong way on a state highway, and speeding, according to the statement. A lawyer representing Leger declined to comment.



Reps. seek to reopen Canadian border

The US representatives from Northern New England are urging the Department of Homeland Security to safely reopen the US-Canadian border, noting that Canadian tourists are vital contributors to the region’s economy. Canadian tourists spent an average of $19 billion in the United States, with $500 million across northern New England, the Democrats wrote in the letter dated Thursday to Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu said Thursday at his weekly news conference that he is expecting this year’s Laconia Motorcycle Week to be well-attended, but without the usual strong showing from Canada. The event starts this weekend. The representatives’ letter also noted that 298 Canadian-owned businesses employ 17,000 northern New Englanders. “Letting vaccinated individuals move across the land border for business travel will stimulate the American and Canadian economies by reducing a significant barrier to business operations,” the letter led by US Representative Annie Kuster of New Hampshire said. Joining Kuster on the letter were US Representatives Peter Welch of Vermont, Chellie Pingree and Jared Golden of Maine, and Chris Pappas of New Hampshire. The border has been closed to nonessential travel since March 21, 2020. (AP)