U.S. Indicts Veteran Lawrence Officer on Extortion Charge

A 16-year veteran Lawrence police officer, on unpaid leave since November, 2015, has been indicted on federal charges stemming from his arrest last May for allegedly using his position as a police officer to extort cocaine from a drug trafficker.

John R. Desantis Jr., 44, of Methuen, was indicted Thursday on one count of extortion and attempted extortion under color of official right and through the use of threatened force and fear, according to U.S. Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz. Desantis allegedly had been purchasing small amounts of cocaine once or twice a week from a drug trafficker for 10 to 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 allegedly 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,’” a spokesperson said.

Ortiz; Harold H. Shaw, special agent in charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Boston Field Division; and Lawrence Police Chief James Fitzpatrick, made the announcement. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney S. Theodore Merritt of Ortiz’s Public Corruption Unit.

Desantis had been on unpaid leave from the Lawrence department related to a “non-work related medical issue,” according to Fitzpatrick. An arraignment date was not announced.