Veteran Lawrence Police Officer Agrees to Extortion Plea Deal

A 16-year veteran officer of the Lawrence Police Department agreed to plead guilty Wednesday in connection with attempting to use his position as a police officer to extort cocaine from a drug trafficker.

John R. Desantis Jr., age 45, of Methuen, agreed to plead guilty 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 is expected to accept the plea during a sentencing hearing Nov. 17.

According to Acting United States Attorney William D. Weinreb, Desantis 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 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.”

Desantis faces a sentence of no more 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, Weinreb’s office said.

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