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Attorney General Martha Coakley sued Lawrence Mayor William Lantigua, saying he broke the state's campaign finance laws by accepting thousands in possibly illegal cash and corporate contributions.
Lantigua's campaign accepted more than $14,000 in 2009 in potentially illegal donations, which were placed into his account in 22 separate deposits, the complaint alleges. Coakley's office said Lantigua's "inaccurate and sometimes incomplete" financial disclosures left it hard to know if the 22 deposits were made up of many smaller individual campaign donations that were lumped together.
The lawsuit also says that in 2009, Lantigua either received or failed to report four potentially illegal contributions in the form of newspaper ads. The following year, Lantigua received or failed to report nearly $5,000 in contributions in the form of food and beverage and room rental fees, according to Coakley.
The complaint also alleges Lantigua failed to report nearly $20,000 worth of expenses from his campaign account during 2009, including a more than $9,000 payment for radio ads.
A message left at Lantigua's office was not immediately returned.
The suit also alleges that during his run for mayor in 2009, Lantigua let Methuen police officer Elvin Alarcon act as his campaign's finance director and Lorenza Ortega, who worked in the city's personnel department, to serve as treasurer. State campaign finance laws bar public employees from seeking or receiving contributions for any candidate for public office.
The lawsuit was filed in Suffolk Superior Court on Tuesday by Coakley and the Office of Campaign and Political Finance, which referred the case to her office last year.
The suit also alleges that during his first run for mayor from 2008 to 2010, Lantigua accepted 16 cashier's checks or money orders worth more than $50, a potential violation of state law.
Coakley said accurate campaign finance disclosures are important "to let voters know where candidates' contributions are coming from and to help them make informed decisions about who to support."
Coakley is asking the court to force Lantigua to forfeit any contributions that were not accurately reported or were illegal. The lawsuit asks that Lantigua pay the money to the state. She's also asking that Lantigua face fines and cover the cost of the investigation.
It's not the first time Lantigua has found himself facing campaign finance complaints.
In January, Coakley sued Lantigua for failing to file a 2011 campaign finance report. Lantigua paid a $5,000 fine and filed the report.
Lantigua had already agreed to a stricter reporting schedule during 2009 but failed to meet the deadlines for three periods that year, according to the complaint.
Coakley said that besides being filed late, all three reports were "inaccurate, incomplete or unsigned."
This program aired on August 27, 2013. The audio for this program is not available.
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