Kevin Rothstein, producer
(BOSTON) (MyFoxBoston.com)-- A kidnapping gang member turned informant told an FBI task force in 2012 that the gang leader had sources working for him inside both the Registry of Motor Vehicles and the Lawrence police department, but officials at both agencies say they knew little if anything about the allegations until asked by FOX Undercover.
No one has been removed from either the Lawrence police or the RMV because of the allegations, meaning there well may be corrupt employees still working there.
The disclosures, made in interviews with the FBI task force as well as grand jury testimony, were made public in recently filed court documents. The US Attorney's office has indicted seven men with conspiracy to commit kidnapping.
Among those indicted and still facing charges is Danny Veloz, nicknamed "The Maestro" for his role in orchestrating the sophisticated kidnapping ring that targeted drug dealers. They called themselves Joloperros -- Spanish for stick-up boys.
Authorities say Veloz and his crew attached GPS tracking devices to his victims' vehicles, following them remotely for months before snatching them off the street. Torture would often follow until the victims gave up their drugs, cash, or both.
The gang insiders who flipped spelled out in detail how the gang worked, their interviews and testimony recorded in hundreds of pages of recently filed court records.
"(T)hey have a way of taking down huge drug dealers without even following them," one confidential witness explained. "They were using tracking devices. And that all the jobs come with an inside man."
But one cooperating witness revealed more, saying Veloz had an insider at the Registry of Motor Vehicles helping him target victims.
"The Joloperos (sic) have a contact at the Registry of Motor Vehicles who runs license plates, which is where they get information about victims' residences," reads an FBI report, known as a 302, from the interview with him.
Retired police chief Tom Shamshak called the allegation from 2012 "bombshell in nature."
"The source inside the Registry allegedly was providing address information and vehicle identification information of potential victims," said Shamshak, who is now a private investigator.
"It's a federal violation."
He added: "The information contained in the 302s regarding Danny' (Veloz's) enterprise suggesting he has an inside contact with the Registry of Motor Vehicles is disturbing and alarming and it should trigger an immediate investigation by the authorities at the Registry of Motor Vehicles."
But there was no immediate investigation at the RMV, or any at all, because Registry officials didn't know about the allegations.
RMV spokesperson Sarah Lavoie said in a statement that the Registry has an "active and cooperative relationship with law enforcement at the local, state and federal levels" and that law enforcement officials can access RMV information without notifying the Registry. But if law enforcement acted on the information about the corrupt Registry officials, the RMV was unaware of it.
"In this case, if records were accessed by the FBI, their specific purpose was not disclosed to the RMV. The RMV will perform a review to determine if action is warranted," the Registry statement said.
While the Registry may have been kept in the dark, the FBI says the Massachusetts State Police, which oversees law enforcement compliance at the RMV, were part of the task force assigned to the investigation and were aware of the corruption allegations.
In any case, the RMV is launching its own investigation now.
In Lawrence, a confidential witness told the task force that Veloz had so much "pull" that he had Lawrence police, or perhaps Lawrence Auxiliary Police, working for him.
"I know the two cops," the witness told the task force in 2012, going on to say he didn't know their names but said they were "Spanish" and were both "fat guys."
He went on to describe how a target of the kidnapping gang brought his truck to a mechanic. Veloz was afraid the GPS tracking device on the truck would be spotted.
"So Danny called whoever he called, and then the cop pulled up in a Lawrence police car. It might have even said auxiliary on it," the witness was quoted as saying. "That guy pulled up, made some type of, you know, a scene in front of the garage. Yo we got to do something. They pulled the truck out and parked it outside, and the cop went inside and talked. And it was a wrap. The truck was no longer brought back inside that garage."
James Fitzpatrick, Lawrence's acting police chief, said "Any indication of police wrongdoing or something is always a cause for concern."
"It seems like this guy is suggesting there is someone on the inside here helping the bad guy out?" asked FOX Undercover reporter Mike Beaudet.
"If you take it for face value it looks like there is someone who is involved with some type of organization," Fitzpatrick replied. "We haven't confirmed any of that, we have yet to corroborate any of it so we still need to look into it"
"Did the feds tell you about this?" Beaudet asked in an interview last week.
"No, it did not come to our attention until the court documents were released," Fitzpatrick replied.
That was last week. This week, Fitzpatrick told FOX Undercover he had since learned that a Lawrence police officer assigned to the FBI task force was told about possible police corruption, but Fitzpatrick said the allegations could not be substantiated and the matter was dropped. Lawrence police are now reviewing that investigation to make sure all leads were exhausted.
FBI Assistant Special Agent in Charge Peter Kowenhoven said in a statement, "Members of the task force assigned to the investigation including the Lawrence Police and Massachusetts State Police were aware of the allegations."
Shamshak, the former police chief, says officials in Lawrence and at the RMV should push hard to investigate any corruption in their midst.
"First and foremost, due process," he said. "Let an investigation look into these bombshell allegations and then follow the evidence. And if there's testimonial evidence, physical evidence, documentary evidence that results in probable cause for an arrest, then a prosecution should absolutely be pursued."
Cox Media Group