By: Tom Duggan – January 19, 2013
The Valley Patriot has learned that three armed robbery suspects arrested last Friday for invading a convenience store on Boxford and South Union Streets with Halloween masks and guns are all Lawrence City Workers hired by Mayor William Lantigua in the Department of Public Works.
Valley Patriot sources in the Lawrence DPW say that they recognized the three suspects on a television news broadcast about the robbery Saturday afternoon, naming Ruben Saldana, Richard Mora, and Michael Alecea as all recent hires by Lantigua.
“They work here, they are temporary employees,” one DPW worker told The Valley Patriot asking for anonymity for fear of retaliation from Mayor Lantigua.
“They are never here, though, they show up, they sign in and then they either hang around all day doing nothing,” the city worker continued. “or they disappear for hours at a time and nobody knows where they are.”
Other DPW employees said that the men, all in their teens, often talked about getting high while at work and “ripping people off”. “I thought it was just macho bragging. They are kids, they’re punks. I didn’t think for a minute any of what they said at work was real, but after seeing their photos on TV, now it’s pretty obvious that it was.
According to city documents obtained by the Valley Patriot, Saldana, Mora and Alecea all answer to Jorge Jamie the new parks foreman hired by Lantigua last year to oversee the city parks. Jamie was Lantigua’s personal secretary and had no experience in parks or DPW prior to his hiring.
All three DPW workers sign in to work in the morning at the City Yard on Auburn Street and their hours are confirmed with a sign off sheet by Jaime.
Adding insult to injury, Lawrence City Councilors say that the grant used to hire all three men to work temporarily at the Lawrence DPW was an $800,000 “Anti-Violence” grant called “Safe and Successful Youth Initiative grant.”
Lawrence Police confirmed that at least two of the three suspects (Mora and Alecea) listed “Lawrence DPW on Auburn Street” as their place of employment during the booking process, a fact omitted by the local daily newspaper in their Sunday story.
The three men are being charged with armed robbery, kidnapping, unlawful discharge of a firearm, unlawful possession of a firearm, and one ammunition charge.
Police are looking for the getaway driver and possibly one other suspect.
Police say the men stormed a convenience store late Friday night in Lawrence attacking one of the employees, locking her in a freezer. She was sent to the hospital by ambulance. Her condition is unknown. Another man was shot in the leg during the armed invasion, his condition is also unknown.
When police arrived at the scene around 9PM Friday night, the masked men refused to surrender causing a standoff with police.
Shorthanded from Lantigua’s last round of public safety layoffs, Lawrence police had to call in “mutual aid” from Andover, North Andover and Methuen Friday night as every cop in the city was on the scene dealing with the standoff situation.
While Lawrence Police were handling the armed invasion, cops from the three surrounding towns were handling 911 calls throughout the city as there were no Lawrence cops available to handle other incidents that were happening at the time; including a home invasion on Grafton Street which had to be handled by North Andover Police.
Police sources say that they believe the suspects are involved in a string of other armed robberies throughout the city and expect to charge them for several other crimes.
“We will have to look and see what time of day these other robberies occurred,” one officer connected to the investigation said. It will be interesting to see if they were committed during the work day.”
The Valley Patriot will post updates as the are available.
Mayor Fires City DPW Worker, Denies Unpaid Leave Time for Dying Wife – December 4, 2012
Termination Hearing for Lawrence Firefighter Tim Atwood – November 28, 2012
More Legislators Call For Takeover of Lawrence, Removal of Lantigua October, 18, 2012