Lawrence police officer indicted on extortion charges


lawrence-policeBoston – A 16-year veteran officer of the Lawrence Police Department was indicted today in connection with attempting to use his position as a police officer to extort cocaine from a drug trafficker.

John R. Desantis, Jr., 44, of Methuen, was indicted on one count of extortion and attempted extortion under color of official right and through the use of threatened force and fear.

According to court documents, 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 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.”

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. Actual sentences for federal crimes are typically less than the maximum penalties. Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based upon the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

United States Attorney Carmen M. 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 today. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney S. Theodore Merritt of Ortiz’s Public Corruption Unit.

The details contained in the charging document are allegations. The defendant is presumed to be innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in the court of law.