Lawrence Police Officer Agrees to Plead Guilty to Attempted Extortion Charges
Boston – A 16-year veteran officer of the Lawrence Police Department agreed to plead guilty today in connection with attempting to use his position as a police officer to extort cocaine from a drug trafficker.
John R. Desantis Jr., 45, of Methuen, agreed to plead guilty today to one count of extortion and attempted extortion under color of official right and through the use of threatened force and fear. U.S. District Court Judge F. Dennis Saylor IV deferred acceptance of the plea until the sentencing hearing, which is scheduled for Nov. 17, 2017.
Desantis had been purchasing small amounts of cocaine once or twice a week from a drug trafficker for 10-12 months without identifying himself as a police officer. On May 16, 2016, during a drug transaction at his home, Desantis displayed his gun and badge, seized the cocaine and threatened to arrest the drug trafficker if he did not continue to supply him with drugs. Desantis thereafter continued to communicate with the drug trafficker through text messages, telling him, “you will not be arrested at all if you do as I tell you to.”
The charging statute provides a sentence of no greater than 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of $250,000. If the court accepts the plea, Desantis will be sentenced to no less than 12 months and no greater than 18 months in prison. Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based upon the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
Acting United States Attorney William D. Weinreb; Harold H. Shaw, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Boston Field Division; and Lawrence Police Chief James X. Fitzpatrick made the announcement today. Assistant U.S. Attorney Kristina Barclay of Weinreb’s Public Corruption Unit is prosecuting the case.