Former Lawrence police officer sentenced to 18 months in prison for tow company bribes

A federal judge in Boston today sentenced a disgraced former Lawrence police officer to 18 months in prison for soliciting gifts from a towing company in exchange for sending it business.

“You were the personification of the law; you broke the law,” US District Court Judge Mark L. Wolf told Pedro Jose Lopez, 47, before sentencing the 15-year veteran of the Lawrence force. Wolf also levied a $10,000 fine against Lopez and said “my main concern is whether it’s too little.”

Lopez was found guilty by a jury after his trial in October on charges of bribery and obstruction of justice. He was placed on leave after his arrest in 2012, and was convicted of soliciting a free snowplow, valued at $4,000, from M&W Towing Co. of Lawrence, in exchange for sending tow jobs to the company.

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He later lied about the transaction to an FBI agent and produced a bogus receipt.

Prosecutors said he received other gifts from M&W Towing as he continued to send business to the company.

With his family looking on, Lopez, who wore a tan suit and glasses, struggled to maintain his composure when he addressed Wolf before sentencing.

“I am embarrassed, and if I had to make several choices over again, it would be totally different,” said Lopez, his voice quavering as a number of relatives cried in their seats. He embraced several of them after the hearing.

Lopez must report to federal custody by noon on Feb. 24. Authorities have not determined where he will serve his sentence.

Prosecutor William Bloomer said during the hearing that Lopez’s actions “have given the Lawrence Police Department a black eye.”

The government had requested a 27-month sentence, which Bloomer said was necessary to show the public that “police officers are not above the law, and they will be held accountable.”

But Wolf opted for the lower sentence, in large part, he said, because of Lopez’s devotion to his family. His lawyer, Alexander R. Cain, alluded to that familial bond in remarks before sentencing and added that Lopez has no prior record, received commendations for heroism as an officer, and has complied with all conditions of his release.

Cain argued unsuccessfully to have Lopez sentenced only to probation. He said Lopez endured “tremendous adversity and a very difficult upbringing in his life.”

Lopez has two weeks to file an appeal of the sentence. It was not immediately clear if he plans to do so.