9/12 Update: Bonilla and Degnan have pleaded not guilty at their arraignments.
LAWRENCE, Mass. — Two men with close ties to Lawrence Mayor William Lantigua have been indicted on corruption charges in an ongoing investigation, prosecutors said Tuesday.
The Essex District Attorney’s office said the mayor’s former chief of staff, Leonard Degnan, and Deputy Police Chief Melix Bonilla will be arraigned Wednesday in Salem Superior Court.
Degnan faces charges including solicitation of a bribe, extortion and conspiracy. Prosecutors said Degnan, Lantigua’s chief of staff from January 2010 to May 2011, used his position to pressure an executive manager of city trash contractor Allied Waste to donate a garbage truck to a town in Lantigua’s native Dominican Republic. Many Lawrence residents also are immigrants from the Caribbean nation.
The charges against Bonilla include fraudulent conversion of city property, conspiracy and extortion. Prosecutors alleged he forced an unwilling subordinate to swap 13 city vehicles seized in drug busts to an automotive sales agency with close ties to Lantigua for four cars. The state inspector general has said the 2010 swap that bypassed competitive bidding cost the financially strapped city about $30,000.
Essex District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett said the indictments are the result of a “lengthy and continuing investigation” by state and federal law enforcement. “The crimes alleged by these indictments represent a serious breach of the public trust,” he said.
The Eagle-Tribune reported that Bonilla has been relieved of duty. “I haven’t done anything and you know it,” Bonilla told the newspaper Tuesday. Degnan and Lantigua separately declined to comment to the newspaper.
A message seeking comment left by The Associated Press at Lantigua’s office Tuesday evening wasn’t immediately returned. Telephone listings for Degnan and Bonilla couldn’t be found. It’s not known if they have attorneys.
Lantigua, a former state representative, was the state’s first Latino elected mayor. He took office in 2010. He has repeatedly denied there’s any corruption in his administration as reports of an investigation began surfacing last year.