Friday, March 12, 2010

Lawrence, Massachusetts school superintendent indicted on embezzlement charges

School Superintendent Wilfredo Laboy was indicted today on nine charges following a lengthy probe into alleged financial wrongdoing in his troubled school district. Laboy has been on leave since June, when police raided his office and confiscated computer equipment from his home. He is expected to be arraigned in Salem Superior Court Thursday. He faces eight counts of fraud or embezzlement and one count of possessing alcohol on school grounds, prosecutors said.
"The crimes alleged involve a serious violation of the public trust," Essex District Attorney Jonathan W. Blodgett said in a statement.
Prosecutors said Laboy, on various dates between March 9, 2004 and today, had school personnel do work at his home and run errands for his benefit. The employees allegedly did electrical work at Laboy's home and met with contractors at the home during school hours.
The employees also allegedly provided graphic design work, materials, and produced copies of menus for a Methuen pizzeria; provided graphic design work and produced materials for the Association of Latino Administrators and Superintendents; provided technical support for Laboy's home computers; removed trash from his house and disposed it on Lawrence schools property; and provided transportation for Laboy's son and grandchildren.
Scott Gleason, Laboy's attorney, didn't immediately return a telephone message seeking comment. No one answered the door when a Globe reporter went to Laboy's home today.
Prosecutors also charged Laboy's former special assistant, Mark Rivera, with seven counts of larceny over $250 for allegedly misappropriating materials from the graphic design department of the schools. Prosecutors alleged that Rivera directed school graphic designers to design and produce campaign literature for six candidates and to design and produce materials for the Association of Latino Administrators and Superintendents.
Former mayoral candidate Israel Reyes was also charged with two counts of larceny. He allegedly directed school employees to design and print campaign literature for himself and for Massachusetts Representative Barry Finegold.
Prosecutors said not all the candidates knew that printing was being done for them by the school employees.
Laboy's son, Wilfredo Laboy II, was also indicted on a perjury charge.
In September, the state Office of Campaign and Political Finance found that Laboy and others illegally used the school department press to print campaign materials for candidates who were seen as Laboy's allies.
The School Committee has been reluctant to fire Laboy during the probe, fearing they were on shaky legal footing. Laboy has been receiving about $4,000 a week in accrued vacation and sick days.
Since becoming superintendent in 2000, Laboy has been a frequent lightning rod for controversy. A native of Puerto Rico who moved to New York City as a young boy, he failed a required English proficiency test three times. He billed the district for running boards on his SUV, saying his wife was having a hard time getting in and out of the vehicle in heels. He was involved in a scuffle with a female School Committee member in his office.

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